Ernesto Valverde is travelling without six first-team players as Barcelona prepare to meet Olympiacos at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on Tuesday.
Barcelona will be bidding to clinch a place in the Round of 16 when they travel to the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium to take on Olympiacos in a UEFA Champions League Group D game on Tuesday. Ahead of the encounter, Ernesto Valverde’s roster issues are mounting, with six players missing the trip to Athens.
Club captain Andres Iniesta is set to miss another game as he continues to recover from a thigh injury that is likely to keep him out until after the international break. Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal (both ankle) are short-term absentees and could be available for the visit of Sevilla on the weekend.
Rafinha (knee) and Ousmane Dembele (hamstring) are the long-term absentees, with neither player expected to return till December at the earliest. Gerard Pique is also unavailable due to suspension after he was booked twice in the reverse fixture two weeks ago.
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Pique’s absence has Valverde grappling with a major selection headache. Javier Mascherano is unwell, meaning his availability is uncertain as well, although he is part of the travelling squad. Thus, Thomas Vermaelen could be set for his first appearance of the season, having been declared match fit.
During his pre-match press conference, Valverde did not provide any injury updates. Instead, he talked about the emotions of returning to Athens, having previously managed Olympiacos to much success. He also commented on the challenges his side will be up against, with the fans being the 12th man for the hosts.
“It’s emotional to be back in Athens for what it means to me. They were three wonderful years where I felt respected by everyone, even my opponents and I am looking forward to a wonderful atmosphere.
“The fans at Olympiacos put a lot of pressure on you. They come to take part in a footballing festival and they inject a lot of passion in general and you can sense that from the start. Even if they organise a great reception for me, they won’t forget to get behind their side.”
Meanwhile, Olympiacos boss Takis Lemonis will be without Seba (knee) and El Fardou Ben Nabouhane (hip). But, Emmanuel Emenike and Botia are fit and available for Tuesday’s encounter, and in contention to feature.