FC Barcelona announced the player list for their upcoming adventure in the Europa League knockout stage, likely giving Sergiño Dest a strong chance at being the preferred right back for their hopeful run to the final in Sevilla.
Apart from a string of nagging injuries stretching back to late-October, the main obstacle to Dest’s participation in 2022 under current Barcelona coach Xavi has been the arrival of Brazilian legend Dani Alves.
While hardly a spring chicken at 38 years old, Alves has clearly been the first choice at right back for Xavi, with Dest’s only start of 2022 being their final La Liga game before the break, where Alves was rested after a long run of starts in League, Cup and Supercopa competition.
Barcelona released their list of players who will be available for the Europa league knockout round today, and the legendary Brazilian was not included, giving a huge boost to the American to be the preferred right back in the competition.
UEFA rules only allow a limited number of changes to the player lists between the group stages in the fall and winter, and the knockout round following the new year, which impacts players such as Alves who were only registered during the winter transfer window.
Since Barcelona added four major players during the winter, Alves was the odd-man out as they opted to make Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the three additions available for the upcoming Europa League run.
This will remove the main obstacle to Dest earning a starting role for Barcelona in the competition, even if it is a bit of a consolation prize for the team that is used to battling at the adults’ table of the Champions League knockout around this time of year.
Barcelona first faces a two-legged series against Italians Napoli, set to take place on February 17 and 24. If they successfully beat their Serie A foes, they will face one of the eight winners of the Europa League group stages during March.
Despite Xavi having clarified Dest’s situation at the club in late-December, rumors of his departure to other major European powerhouses such as Bayern and Chelsea had been a constant buzz during the January transfer window. Still, the American remained in Barcelona with little drama, likely indicating a role in his new coach’s plans.
Dest is currently stateside on USMNT duty, however will be back in Barcelona for their next league game, a critical matchup against fourth-place Atletico that could see them climb into the Champions League places for the first time since August.