Barcelona face a tough test on Saturday night as they travel to the RCDE Stadium to face Espanyol in the La Liga
Barcelona cannot afford any slip-ups in the title race as they are currently level on points with Real Madrid, who still have a game in hand and are favourites to win their fixture against Valencia earlier on Saturday night.
The Blaugranes have received a timely boost in the return of Brazilian forward Neymar, who has been suspended for the last three matches after being sent off and then sarcastically applauding a referee during Barcelona’s fixture against Malaga.
However, Andres Iniesta is a major doubt for the game after failing to train ahead of the match, with teenager Carles Alena joining up with the first team in the diminutive Spaniard’s absence. Speaking ahead of the match, Luis Enrique revealed that Iniesta would face a late test while stressing that this was an important game for the Blaugranes.
“We will have to wait until tomorrow to see if he [Iniesta] can be included in the squad,” he said. “We know how difficult it is in a derby. All away game are tough, especially against Espanyol but we will try to use our quality to overcome them.”
“The fact that it is a derby means it is a special game and there are clues in previous meetings or in the table in a high intensity game like this. At this point in the season all matches are key, we need all three points and it is an added extra that it is a derby.”
Barcelona are expected to revert to their 4-3-3 formation after the success they had against Real Madrid, with Andre Gomes likely to fill in for Andres Iniesta should the latter fail to be ready in time for the match.
Jordi Alba will likely return to his left back position should Barcelona utilise the 4-3-3 formation and Ivan Rakitic will start alongside Sergio Busquets and Gomes in midfield. Up front, there will be no surprises as MSN are reunited after Neymar’s absence.
Espanyol might be without left back Aaron Martin who has picked up an injury, with Victor Alvarez likely to deputise for the 20-year old Spaniard. It is also unclear who will start alongside Gerard Moreno, although Felipe Caicedo is the favourite ahead of Leo Baptistao.
Espanyol do not have any other major injury concerns and are expected to name a largely unchanged side and given how cohesive Quique Sanchez has made this side, he will not want to upset the balance in a game of this magnitude.