The coach has been looking for the right system and players to face Madrid. There is no day which doesn’t force Luis Enrique to alter his plans.
From finding out Lionel Messi will not be ready for the Clasico on November 21, the coach has looked for the right system and the players to take on Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Against Getafe he tried, for 15 minutes, a period with four midfielders – Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, Sergi Roberto – an idea he came back to more in the next game, against BATE Borisov, but with the latter playing on the right wing.
However, on this occasion the test lasted 20 minutes before Ivan Rakitic was injured and Munir came on with Sergi Roberto slipping inside.
Luis Enrique only has one more game before the Clasico to tinker, at home agianst Villarreal on Sunday. In principle he might go with four central midfielders again, but with Rakitic out there is no fourth. The problem is that Javier Mascherano is suspended too. That stops him trying plan C. In theory, the team that plays against Real Madrid may never have played together, a real danger.
Lucho may go with Mascherano in defensive midfield, for the Clasico, with Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Sergi Roberto in midfield too. Thomas Vermaelen could take Mascherano’s central defender position, although you can’t rule out Bartra or Mathieu too.
Against Villarreal this cannot be tested as Mascherano is not there. It is likely that Sandro Ramirez will play in the forward line, in the classic 4-3-3. Obviously this could be an option for the Bernabeu too, with Munir playing if Sandro features against Villarreal, but Lucho is unlikely to sacrifice Sergi Roberto – in form, good fitness – so barring suspension or further injury, it’s not likely either of the youngsters starts the Clasico.
If there are no more surprises, Plan C seems set to be used at the Bernabeu. It’s clear that it’s not the best Barcelona side – no Messi, Rakitic, Arda and Vidal – but it’s the most competitive under the circumstances.
Moreover, Marcelo – one of the toughest Madrid players to stop – could miss the game, giving much more freedom to Sergi Roberto and Dani Alves, who may just have to look after Cristiano Ronaldo.
So plan A is out with Messi’s injury, plan B broken thanks to Rakitic’s injury, so plan C it is. It’s risky because it’s not been tried, but at least man for man the team matches up to Madrid.