Barcelona vs Real Sociedad: Ernesto Valverde’s Best Available Blaugrana Lineup

Barcelona play their La Liga fixture versus Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou this Saturday afternoon with the triple still very much on the cards.

Ernesto Valverde’s side dismissed Manchester United in their Champions League quarter-final in midweek, a Lionel Messi double and a second-half Philippe Coutinho strike securing a 4-0 aggregate win. Last weekend the Catalans were held 0-0 in league action by Huesca, though they still have a sizeable nine point advantage over Atletico Madrid in second place.

Sociedad are in midtable obscurity after an inconsistent run of form, the Basques currently sitting in 10th position in the table.

Here’s the lineup Valverde could go with for the clash.


Goalkeeper & Defenders

Gerard Pique

Marc-André ter Stegen (GK) – The German has now reached 20 clean sheets this campaign after two shut outs during ?Barça’s 4-0 aggregate ?Champions League victory against ?United, a fine total for the 26-year-old.

Sergi Roberto (RB) – Though he lacks a yard of pace, Roberto is an excellent make-shift right-back for Valverde. He offers composure and dependability in a high-pressure position that he is less accustomed to.

Gerard Pique (CB) – After missing the ?La Liga stalemate against Huesca last weekend, Pique returned for the quarter-final clash with the Red Devils, keeping the opposition quiet bar an opening minute opportunity for Marcus Rashford.

Samuel Umtiti (CB) – The Frenchman has found his regular place in the side taken by Clément Lenglet but could feature against Real Sociedad as Valverde rotates his lineup.

Jordi Alba (LB) – 16 assists in all competitions is a superb total for Alba who has developed into one of world football’s top attacking full-backs since switching to the Camp Nou in 2012.


Midfielders

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-HUESCA

Arturo Vidal (CM) – Another who is likely to benefit from a reshuffling of personnel, Vidal has struggled to make the desired impact at Barcelona. That is more due to the eminent talent of Sergio Busquets than any major failings on the former ?Juventus man’s part.

Ivan Rakiti? (RCM) – The 31-year-old possesses wonderful passing and shooting abilities, making him crucial figure in Valverde’s set-up. Rakiti? has done well in filling the gaping void left by the legendary Andrés Iniesta’s departure last summer.

Arthur (LCM) – The €31m purchase of the Brazilian is looking like a shrewd acquisition given the mad state of the transfer market of late. He has offered little in the final third, yet makes the side tick from deep with his marvellous array of passing.


Forwards

Lionel Messi,Ashley Young

Lionel Messi (RW) – Jürgen Klopp has? admitted his concerns regarding the magnificent Messi and his potency in front of goal when ?Liverpool face the Catalans in the Champions League semi-finals. He has netted 45 times in yet another incredible year at the Camp Nou, making it clear why the Reds boss has earmarked him as a potential decider in their clash. 

Ousmane Dembélé (LW) – Since arriving from? Borussia Dortmund in 2017, Dembélé has had a decidedly mixed time. His debut season was written off after a serious injury, though the Frenchman has followed up with a stellar showing of footballing intelligence and dangerous dribbling this time round.

Luis Suárez (ST) – The ex-?Premier League superstar has been productive in terms of goals and assists, amassing 23 and 12 in all competitions, respectively. He will be eager to show his former employers Liverpool what they’re missing when they play at the start of May.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Plays Down Expectations for ‘Quick Fix’ Spending Spree in Summer Window

?Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned that there is no ‘quick fix’ to the club’s current struggles, and that a ‘realistic’ approach must be taken to the summer transfer window. 

While perhaps not the news that some fans expecting a huge spend on numerous players will want to hear, Solskjaer acknowledged that there is a ‘lot of work to be done’ and still a need for ‘rebuilding’ if the club is to seriously challenge for major trophies in the coming years.

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With rumours that United are targeting young emerging stars like Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Declan Rice, as well as the potential to land an established world class centre-back, there is speculation that the summer budget could reach £250m.

Solskjaer has confirmed that new players will be brought in, but he has stressed that patience will be necessary as no amount of spending will turn United into title contenders overnight.

“I’ve been speaking to the club and we know we have to be realistic here,” the 46-year-old said as he spoke at his weekly press conference on Friday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

“We that there is a job to be done, there’s no quick fix, it’s not like buy seven players and suddenly we’re in the right shape. We are where we are, we have to take it step by step. Of course there will be signings made in the summer, but there also has to be thought.”

But Solskjaer cannot rely on new signings. He knows the existing players at his disposal must do more after ?allegedly accusing them of ?not giving ?100 per cent against Barcelona.

That will start with pre-season and seeing which players have the right attitude and mentality, who has taken care of themselves over the summer and who is immediately ready to work.

“I can’t wait for pre-season to come. There will be some additions, that’s one side of it. But the players have got to come back knowing what’s expected of them on the first day of pre-season,” the Norwegian explained.

“It’s not like in the 1990s where you come back overweight and then we start to work. They’ve got to do the job and take ownership of that over the holidays and that will be great to see who’s coming back ready.”

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Delivers Team News Ahead of Everton Clash as Man Utd Stars Return

?Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that Alexis Sanchez and Nemanja Matic could feature in the Premier League clash with Everton on Easter Sunday, while Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly are also nearing full fitness ahead of a crucial week that will more than likely determine whether the club finishes the season in the top four.

Sanchez made his return to action as a late substitute against Barcelona on Tuesday night after several weeks out with a knee problem, while Matic has missed eight of United’s last 11 games in all competitions as a result of injury and illness.

Alexis Sanchez

And while Herrera and Bailly probably won’t be fit enough to face Everton this weekend, their return to fitness could come in time Manchester derby on Wednesday and the almost immediate visit of Chelsea to Old Trafford the following weekend.

“We’ll have 20 [players] training this morning [Friday], plus the keepers, which is not bad. Nemanja and Alexis had a good session [on Thursday] as well, so they will probably be involved,” Solskjaer explained to MUTV shortly before his weekly press conference.

“The squad is looking good and getting better and better, I have to say. Ander is back in training, he’s been working really hard. Eric will be back in training over the weekend, Antonio [Valencia] we’re not sure about yet,” the United boss added.

Ander Herrera

Luke Shaw will be missing as he serves the second game of a domestic suspension.

United have been beaten in two of their last four Premier League fixtures and the earlier momentum in the race for the top four has been lost. Ahead of this weekend, they sit in sixth place, two points behind fifth place Chelsea and fourth place Arsenal.

Tottenham are only a point further ahead of the others, meaning that third place is still within reach, but only if United can take control and win their own games – a task perhaps easier said than done after a noticeable drop in performance levels in recent weeks.

Solskjaer is not shying away from the task at hand and insists the players are in a good mental state and ready to go again, despite the nature of this week’s Champions League elimination.

“It’s a fantastic week to look forward to, the players are in a good state, mentally, and they are strong mentally. I think we know at Goodison Park it is going to be a hard game, I think other teams have seen that as well,” he later told the gathered media.

Everton have beaten both Arsenal and Chelsea at Goodison in the last four weeks, while also taking points off Liverpool there in the recent Merseyside derby. United beat Everton at Goodison last season, but have also lost four times at the stadium since 2010.

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Virgil van Dijk & Man City’s Raheem Sterling Set to Split Player of the Year Awards

?Virgil van Dijk and Raheem Sterling look set to claim the two main Player of the Year prizes, with the Liverpool defender set for the Professional Footballers’ Association award and the Manchester City man on course for the Football Writers’ Association’s prize.

Both men have been the beating heart of their respective sides this season, with ?Van Dijk helping Liverpool to 16 clean sheets in the Premier League this season, conceding just 20 goals – the lowest total in the league. He also had some key moments at the other end of the pitch, with three goals and two assists domestically, and two more of each in the Champions League. 

Raheem Sterling,Virgil van Dijk

?Sterling, meanwhile, has 17 goals and nine assists in the league this season, the joint-second highest goal contribution tally, with six and seven more of each across competitions. 

And, as reported by the ?Times, the duo are both set to be rewarded at the end of the campaign with invidual gongs, regardless of which side pips the other to the Premier League title. 

According to the newspaper’s sources, the Englishman and Dutchman are set to split the two biggest awards, with Van Dijk earning the nod from his fellow players in the PFA, and Sterling sealing the approval of the FWA. Voting for the latter does not conclude until April 28th, but the former have finished their counting ahead of the ceremony next week. 

This would continue the trend of no ?City player ever winning the top award at the PFAs, despite three league titles in the last seven years, but would buck a 50-odd year wait for a FWA nod.


Despite never (yet) winning a Premier League trophy, ?Liverpool have won both awards twice in the last five seasons, with Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah sweeping the categories in 2013/14 and 2017/18 respectively.

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Unai Emery Set to Receive £75m Transfer Budget If He Can Secure Champions League Football

?Arsenal manager Unai Emery will get a £75m transfer budget this summer if he can secure Champions League football, according to reports.

Arsenal are in contention to qualify for next season’s Champions League as they currently sit in fourth place in the Premier League and are in the Europa League semi-finals.

Unai Emery

According to a report by ?Goal, qualifying for the ?Champions League will not drastically increase the funds Emery has available in the summer compared to this season, where Emery spent just over £71m.

The majority of that money was spent on goalkeeper Bernd Leno and midfielder Lucas Torreira .

The report states that Emery will have only £45m to spend if ?the Gunners don’t qualify for next season’s Champions League. Emery is reportedly looking for a replacement for ?Juventus-bound midfielder? Aaron Ramsey and is also interested in signing a left-back and a winger.

He is also on the lookout for a new striker as Danny Welbeck, (who is currently out injured), is expected to leave the club when his contract expires in the summer.

Following their ?1-0 victory over ?Napoli on Thursday, Arsenal progressed to the semi-finals of the Europa League where they will play Valencia. If the Gunners can find a way past their La Liga opposition, and win the tournament outright, they will be guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League.

They will look to solidify their place in the top four of the ?Premier League when they host ?Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon.

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