‘I Don’t Like Playing Right Back’

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FC Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo has used an interview with beIN SPORTS to send a message to head coach Xavi Hernandez.

“I don’t like to play as a right back, but as a centre back [instead],” he stated, on the eve of Sunday’s must-win La Liga clash with Atletico Madrid.

Araujo often plays at center-back, but can sometimes be deployed at right back for big games such as when Barca face bitter rivals Real Madrid and Xavi believes he can contain dangerous left winger Real Madrid.

Last season, though, it was mainly Jules Kounde who played right back and this season the roles have been reversed.

On Tuesday, when Barca faced Porto in the Champions League, Araujo played his unpreferred role for the 2-1 win that guaranteed qualification to the knockout phase for the first time since 2021.

Natural left back Joao Cancelo switched channels to replace underperforming La Masia graduate Alejandro Balde, and the Portuguese loanee’s goal and assist exploits might persuade Xavi to go for a similar approach moving forward while two of Inigo Martinez, Andreas Christensen or Kounde partnering in the center.

SPORT believes that Araujo could again start on the right to contain Samuel Lino, and the 24-year-old expects to encounter a “strong and organized team” in Atleti.

“Antoine Griezmann and [Alvaro] Morata are in excellent condition and we have to be careful,” he added.

Barca have two tough assignments in consecutive weekends by hosting Atletico and surprise title contenders Girona next Saturday.

For Araujo, however, “losing points in the next two games doesn’t mean anything,” as the season “is still a long one.”

With Marc-Andre ter Stegen doubtful for Atleti, and Sergi Roberto only just returning to match fitness, Araujo could well take the captain’s armband if Frenkie de Jong doesn’t start.

The Dutchman is likely to get the nod in a midfield three with Ilkay Gundogan and Pedri, however, but this won’t affect Araujo who considers himself a “born leader”.

“It’s always a source of pride to be captain of this team, but it’s not up to me,” he said earlier this year, before being chosen as one of four skippers.

“It’s something the players choose. I consider myself a leader with or without the armband. I consider myself a born leader and that will always be the case”, Araujo concluded, from Barca’s preseason tour of the United States in July where a vote was held.

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