Barcelona take on Arsenal in the 2nd leg of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie without suspended defender Gerard Pique. Meanwhile, the Gunners welcome back Laurent Koscielny to a squad that has once again been depleted due to injuries in midfield.
Barcelona carry a comfortable 2-0 lead back to the Camp Nou, having beaten the Gunners in convincing fashion courtesy of a Lionel Messi brace three weeks ago. Several of their key players were rested by manager Luis Enrique in the 6-0 thumping of Getafe this weekend, and the Spaniard has a full-strength squad available to him.
However, Arsenal are struggling with injuries to their midfielders, as Aaron Ramsey recently joined the list due to a thigh strain he picked up in the Gunners’ 4-0 win over Hull City.
Pique to miss the tie
Barcelona will be without defender Gerard Pique for the tie, with the centre-back serving a one-match suspension due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
However, manager Luis Enrique is not too worried about the absence of the Spain international, with Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen ready to step up.
“I have plenty of very good central defenders who have great speed,” Enrique was quoted as saying by fcbarcelona.com. “They are all very good in the aerial game and are very good at bringing the ball up the field. I trust them completely.”
The Catalans have no other injury concerns, with long-term absentees Sandro and Rafinha being the only other players who will miss the tie.
Koscielny back for the Gunners
Arsenal, on the other hand, have a host of midfielders out injured, with none of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey available for the game, according to uefa.com.
Young defender Calum Chambers has not travelled with the squad, while first-choice goalkeeeper Petr Cech is still out with his calf injury.
However, one man who is back in contention for the tie is centre-back Laurent Koscielny, who has been passed fit to play in the game as per a report by ESPN FC.
With Barcelona unbeaten in their last 37 games in all competitions, and unbeaten at home since 2014, Arsenal will have to play out of their skin simply to avoid defeat at the Nou Camp.