Xavi's dilemmas for the starting eleven in the opening game

Xavi's dilemmas for the starting eleven in the opening game

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Up front, the Lewy-Raphinha-Dembélé trident looks set; doubts remain in defence and midfield.

One can safely bet that the trio to start up front in the Joan Gamper Trophy will be the one that starts in the official debut on Saturday (21:00) against Rayo Vallecano. Raphinha, Dembélé and Lewandowski. Two pure wingers to open the field and look for spaces and a killer at the axis of attack. Ansu Fati has demonstrated that he is physically well and moved on from his past struggles. But Xavi might not risk it and is more likely to ease him in slowly. He will undoubtedly play a significant role. With Ferran Torres still not match-ready, that wraps up the attack.

In midfield, Sergio Busquets will be the first name on the sheet. Yet again the player from Badia is untouchable. Nico, who looked like he could push him, will go on loan to Valencia in search of game time.

Pedri and Gavi hold the upper hand for the spots next to Busi, as Frenkie de Jong is still in an uncertain chaotic situation. The Dutchman showed at the Gamper that he is still in his prime, that despite the external noise his level of play is still very high. If he were to stay, he is as likely to start as Gavi and Pedri. But for now, we do not envision Xavi giving him much game time, at least not until a resolution is reached. Another piece in the puzzle is Kessié. He offers an attacking threat and is more box-to-box. He is sure to play a role this season, but for the moment he is likely to start on the bench.

At the back, given what we have seen in preseason, Ronald Araujo is likely to start at right back. Xavi has used him there because of his good defensive performances and also how well the Christensen-Eric Garcia partnership has been working. With Koundé still adapting and gaining pace after his injury, this could be the preferred pairing for the moment. Piqué is aware that his role is morphing and he will have to settle for playing a part from the bench. And on the left, Jordi Alba is undisputed at the moment. Balde has offered good performances and the arrival of Marcos Alonso would heat things. But it is difficult to see the player from L'Hospitalet on the bench against Rayo Vallecano.

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