Barcelona have been boosted by the news that midfielder Rafinha, who has been out for 6 months, has been given the medical green light to play again ahead of the Catalans’ trip to El Madrigal.
The Spanish champions have Rafinha returning at just the right time, with the fixture list piling up following their qualification for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Luis Enrique’s men remain in contention for an unprecedented back-to-back treble, and have the opportunity to extent their lead at the top of the league to 11 points with a win on Sunday.
Rafinha given medical green light
Rafinha, who is the brother of Bayern Munich midfielder and former Barcelona man Thiago Alcantara, has been out since the 16th of September, having torn his anterior cruciate ligament following a tackle from Radja Nainggolan of AS Roma in the UEFA Champions League group stages.
The FC Barcelona website announced that Rafinha was given the green light by the medical staff ahead of Thursday’s training session, and is back in contention for selection in Luis Enrique’s starting line-up. In fact, the 23-year-old started in 4 out of 6 La Liga games before suffering his injury.
Enrique to rotate the squad?
The front three of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi have played whenever they have been fit, and are expected to start their 5th game in 17 days.
Gerard Pique, who was suspended for the game in midweek, is likely to take the place of Jeremy Mathieu in the Barcelona starting XI alongside Javier Mascherano.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been the first choice for Luis Enrique in the league and will take the place of Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Blaugrana goal.
Barcelona’s summer signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are the other names who are likely to play some part in the game, with Sandro the only first-team player who is not available for selection against Villarreal.
Villarreal have not won any of their last 3 games in the league and will be fired up ahead of their clash against the reigning champions. The Yellow Submarines will be hoping to take advantage of any tired legs in the Blaugrana ranks, and Enrique should ensure that he rotates his squad without affecting the balance of the winning machine that has won 12 on the bounce in the league.