With Ronald Koeman fired following the 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano in La Liga midweek, a transition era has begun at FC Barcelona yet again.
It has been too soon to appoint a new head coach for Saturday’s late evening clash with Alaves, so leading the dejected Blaugrana stars for this one and a vital Champions League return trip to Dynamo Kiev is caretaker manager Sergi Berjuan, with Xavi Hernandez expected to be installed for next weekend’s visit to Celta Vigo ahead of the international break.
“I want to put some joy back into the team and get them enjoying their football again,” said Berjuan when facing the press for the first time yesterday at his prematch conference, where president Joan Laporta also spoke.
“I need all the players to be plugged into turning this situation around. It is important for them to be united.”
Now nine points behind Real Sociedad, who take on Athletic Club on in the Basque Derby tomorrow, Barca have a mountain to climb from near-mid table and need to start winning games like these.
But at least recent history is on their side, as since losing to this outfit at home 2-1 in 2016, the Catalans are unbeaten in 20 games against Basque teams at their iconic Camp Nou ground.
Heading into this one, the visitors are in slightly better form with three wins in their last five started with a 1-0 win over the reigning La Liga champion Atletico Madrid outfit that Barca lost 2-0 to at the Wanda.
Last time out, they beat Elche 1-0 at their Mendizorrotza stadium.
Hoping to return Barca to winning ways in a 4-3-3 formation is a back line of Jordi Alba, Eric Garcia, Gerard Pique and Oscar Mingueza in front of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
To the delight of those who wish to see more of the La Masia graduates, breakthrough midfielders Gavi and Nico Gonzalez should operate with support from captain Sergio Busquets in the center of the park owing to injuries suffered by Frenkie de Jong and Pedri.
Up top, Sergio Aguero starts again flanked by Memphis Depay and Sergino Dest to either side.