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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Barcelona’s possible starting line-up against Porto in the Champions League

Barça head coach Xavi Hernández will be without Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Raphinha in Wednesday’s game in Portugal.

Update:
Barça head coach Xavi Hernández will be without Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Raphinha in Wednesday’s game in Portugal.
PAU BARRENAAFP

Barcelona haven’t had a happy time of things in the Champions League group stages in recent years, failing to progress to the knockout rounds in each of the last two seasons. However, they got their 2023-24 European campaign off to the perfect start two weeks ago, thrashing Belgian champions Royal Antwerp 5-0 at Estadio Olímpico Lluís Companys in Montjuïc. Xavi Hernández now takes his team to Portugal for what looks to be Group H’s toughest test on paper against 2004 winners Porto.

De Jong and Pedri absent in midfield

Barça have been forced to leave three key players behind due to injury, all of whom are likely starters in Xavi’s first-choice XI. Young star Pedri hasn’t played since the second LaLiga game of the season because of a thigh problem and isn’t yet ready for a return, which makes the ankle injury suffered by fellow midfielder Frenkie de Jong against Celta Vigo 10 days ago all the harder to bear.

On the face of it, summer signing Oriol Romeu is now the most logical choice to play in the holding role but Ilkay Gündogan impressed in a deeper position in last Friday’s win against Sevilla and could again play there in Porto. If that proves to be the case, Fermín López will come into contention to join fellow youngster Gavi in starting either side of the German.

Injured Raphinha out but Araújo to return in Porto

Winger Raphinha is the third member of the injured trio, injuring his hamstring in that victory over the reigning Europa League holders. Like de Jong and Pedri, the Brazilian is in a race against time to be fit for El Clásico on 28 October. As a result of his absence, Ferran Torres is likely to start on the right-hand side of attack, although teenage prodigy Lamine Yamal was given the nod against Sevilla and will have given Xavi something to think about.

The good news for Barça is that Ronald Araújo, who has also had an injury-hit start to the season, appears to be approaching full fitness and is expected to regain his place alongside Jules Koundé in central defence after being rested against Sevilla.

Barcelona’s possible XI against Porto

Ter Stegen; Cancelo, Araújo, Koundé, Balde; López, Gündogan, Gavi; Torres, Lewandowski, Félix.