Barcelona return to La Liga action on Wednesday when they host Real Betis at the Nou Camp.
Luis Enrique’s side traveled halfway across the world earlier this month, heading to Japan where they lifted the Club World Cup after a final victory against River Plate.
While the Catalan giants will surely be delighted to lift more silverware and add another triumph to their burgeoning honours list, Enrique will be aware that the Spanish championship and the Champions League are arguably more pressing concerns for the fans. It is in these arenas that his campaign will be judged.
His side were held in their final two domestic matches before the sojourn to the Far East—against Valencia and Deportivo La Coruna—and will be desperate to end a thoroughly successful year on a high note.
In terms of Barca’s team selection, it remains to be seen whether the manager will opt to rotate his squad ahead of a January schedule which may prove decisive in this season’s title race.
Expect Claudio Bravo to start between the sticks, although we’re tipping Adriano to be given the nod ahead of Jordi Alba at left-back.
Gerard Pique will return in the defence, and we’re backing Marc Bartra to get the nod ahead of Thomas Vermaelen. Dani Alves will complete the defence.
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Sergio Busquets is a safe bet to take the anchor man role, while Andres Iniesta and Sergio Roberto will join him in the midfield—Ivan Rakitic has looked leggy in recent weeks, and ought to be rested.
The famous forward trio of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi will keep their places—unfortunately for Betis—with the last of these three making his 500th outing for the Catalan giants.