Here are the decisions Valverde must make ahead of the Betis match

Without Suarez or Dembele, Valverde must decide whether he starts with Lionel Messi and who he picks as his attacking options on the bench

 El argentino volvió a ejercitarse con el grupo pensando en el partido del Betis | Efe

Preseason used to be about training together, new players getting to know their team and double sessions to find the best formula ahead of a new campaign. The current concept is more about long flights, commercial opportunities and plenty of tired bodies by the end of it.

Ivan San Antonio



The starting XI Ernesto Valverde named against Athletic Club came as a surprise to many, who expected the coach to opt for a more conservative lineup. Instead Valverde opted for a new-look midfield led by Frenkie de Jong in place of Sergio Busquets. It seems hard to imagine that he'll opt for the exact same midfield, not just because of injuries in the squad, but as he searches for the right formula.


The Argentine star has returned to full training this week and is desperate to get his first minutes of the season under his belt. Depending on how the final training session goes, and how Messi himself feels tomorrow, will determine whether he starts the match or comes off the bench. He's the glue which holds the entire attack, and sometimes team, together. With Suarez and Dembele out, the only other senior forward available is Antoine Griezmann.


The losses of the Uruguayan striker and French winger also opens the door for one - or two if Messi isn't ready - from Rafinha, Abel Ruiz and Carles Perez to stake their claim for a starting spot. Rafinha is perhaps the strongest option available but with his future likely to be elsewhere, Valverde might opt to give one of the youngsters a chance to prove themselves.


If Valverde leaves Busquets on the bench again, it would be a clear signal of the holding midfielder's time being up as a certain starter. Likewise dropping de Jong after the opening day defeat would appear as if he'd lost faith in the Dutch star. The most likely option is they'll play together with the former Ajax man slightly further forward this time around.


Valverde asked for another right back to free up Sergi Roberto to move into midfield. Semedo is his first choice to occupy that role and if he starts against Betis again, it'll be clear that idea hasn't changed. Junior is expected to remain on the bench as he waits for his opportunity.


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