Ernesto Valverde’s side travel to Montilivi for a Catalan derby this weekend as they look to make it six wins out of six in the Primera Division.
Record signing Ousmane Dembele is still out for about four months due to the hamstring injury he sustained on his first league start for the club, but the France international is hopeful he will only be out for two months rather than four as first expected.
Centre-back Samuel Umtiti is set to return to the side after being rested for the midweek thumping of Eibar but it is unsure as to whether or not Paulinho will keep his place in the midfield despite getting on the score sheet to continue his impressive start to life at the Nou Camp.
Rafinha is still out with a knee problem, and Nelson Semedo is expected to be saved for the Champions League trip to Sporting Lisbon midweek. Having said that, Ernesto Valverde should have an otherwise full-strength squad to choose from. In fact, the manager is expected to hand starts to Paco Alcacer and Andre Gomes.
This may be the first time both clubs play each other but Valverde was quite vary about a derby atmosphere at the pre-match press conference. “We have to be careful with the festive air that surrounds this derby. They [Girona] will be looking to enjoy the game and at the same time give everything so we will have to be on our toes,” said the coach.
“It’s a game that they have marked in red on the fixture list, just like we have,” continued Valverde before commenting that Girona are “enjoying playing in the first division and they want to stay there.”
Valverde is set to rotate his pack again for what is his side’s fourth game in the space of just 11 days, with the Champions League clash at Sporting CP to follow on Wednesday. Jordi Alba should return at left-back after sitting out against Eibar on Saturday, but Gerard Pique could be rested in central defence.
As far as the midfield is concerned, the question still remains as to whether Valverde will choose to play Paulinho and rest Iniesta. Ivan Rakitic in also in line for a return and this will be an important decision for the manager to make. On the other hand, Luis Suarez should start up front.
Club talisman Lionel Messi is in red-hot form and will look to increase his goal tally against Girona on Saturday.