FC Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez is set to overhaul his team’s line up and take a completely different approach towards Real Madrid in a Copa del Rey semi-final installment of El Clasico on Thursday, according to one report.
The two eternal rivals face off at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the last four, and though he has three key players out injured in Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Robert Lewandowski, Xavi vowed at his pre-match press conference that he would approach the game just like January’s 3-1 riot in the Spanish Super Cup final.
This saw Xavi deploy a four-man midfield with what looks like a 4-3-3 on paper but has Gavi as a false left winger.
According to AS, though, Xavi will opt for a different look completely and go back on his word.
In what appears to be a 4-2-1-3 written down, Gavi will be deployed as a central attacking midfielder in front of double pivots Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. Further up the pitch, Sergi Roberto is the false left winger as seen at Old Trafford last week in Barca’s Europa League exit to Manchester United while Ferran Torres is the striker in Lewandowski’s absence with usual positional rival Raphinha to his right.
SPORT claims that Xavi will indeed stick to his guns, however, with Gavi the false left winger and Torres the striker as Ansu Fati plays a pivotal role as an impact substitute.
Mundo Deportivo says that Torres will operate as a false ‘9’, but something all three outlets agree on is that usual central defender Ronald Araujo will run out at right back to try and contain Vinicius Jr in what is arguably the most fascinating individual battle of the clash.
This moves Jules Kounde to center back to partner Andreas Christensen, and the Frenchman will hope for more success than he enjoyed against United when struggling to deal with Marcus Rashford and giving the visitors the lead in the eventual 2-2 first leg draw through an own goal.
What is most likely of all is that Xavi does indeed stay with the four man midfield. Xavi has been repeatedly proven as a man of his word and principles, and will hope that a Gavi suspended in the second leg of the Europa League exit offers the intensity and creativity lacked at Old Trafford.
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