Originally, the plan was to break down how Barcelona are desperate for at least a draw against Atletico Madrid. Up 11 points in the table, both Madrid giants are mathematically still in the La Liga race, and a negative Barça result could mean a lot of trouble with nine more matches after this one.
Even with Pedri and Frenkie de Jong back, Xavi’s team has a lot of improving to do after failing to score in their last three games, a feat they haven’t “accomplished” since 2008.
With Raphinha, Ansu Fati, and Ferran Torres all dealing with different levels of frustration, physical issues, or mental ones, Xavi is looking for any answers along the forward line.
On the last listener question show, a reasonable plan was laid out for Lamine Yamal. Have him continue training with the first team, get his debut in the usual Catalan fixture to kick off the preseason, then look to give him a debut sometime next season with low stakes.
But that’s why Xavi doesn’t always listen to The Barcelona Podcast. Instead, the 15-year-old Yamal will be on the bench against Atleti, ready to make history as the youngest La Masia player to debut with the first team in the 21st century.
The teenager will likely sign his first professional contract when he turns 16 in July, so it is quite the surprise to see him make the first team bench before that. Culers hoping to get a glimpse of him against Atleti may be disappointed depending on how the match shakes out, but the usual precedent is that if a manager calls up a 15 or 16-year-old, that kid plays.
Yamal would likely make his first team debut on the right wing where he’s most comfortable, but his versatility across the front line means that Xavi may just throw him out there if Barça has a lead and give the instruction, “defend like heck kid”.
Just seeing the field against Atleti would exceed all expectations the club should have had for him this season, which were still pretty high. If the slender teenager steps onto the field, Culers will see his slight frame and be reminded that he should be playing with Cadet A, the U-16s. Instead, he’s spent all season with Juvenil A, the U-19s, and never looked out of place.
Fortunately for him though, the blame of a bad result won’t fall on his shoulders. Because whether it’s a 15-year-old or a 34-year-old (Busquets) out there for the Blaugrana, Xavi needs a good result.
For more on Lamine Yamal this season and the other top prospects at La Masia, check out the latest La Masia Update: