Barcelona host Deportivo Alaves tonight at the Nou Camp as they look to extend their unbeaten run in the La Liga this campaign to twenty one games.
As things stand, Barcelona have a 11 point lead at the top of the table over Atletico Madrid, who are currently second on the table. They have 43 points to their name and have won 17 of their 20 games this season in the Spanish top flight, drawing the other 3.
In their last game, which was played on Thursday, they played and overcame cross town rivals RCD Espanyol by a margin of 2 goals in the second leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal tie. So we can expect a few players to be rested by Ernesto Valverde when the Blaugrana take to the pitch tonight.
According to the official squad list released by Barcelona for this game, there have been 5 key absentees, albeit none of them have been first team regulars this season. In defence, only Thomas Vermaelen has been left out of the squad as he is still injured.
Lucas Digne is expected to come into the starting eleven to allow Jordi Alba to have a break. Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti will likely hold on to their places, but Nelson Semedo will mostly be brought in to replace Sergi Roberto at right-back.
Further up in midfield, Andre Gomes has picked up a last minute injury and hasn’t been included in the matchday squad. Denis Suarez has been left out while Ousmane Dembele is still being treated for his injury. Philippe Coutinho has been included in the squad and is in line to make his La Liga debut tonight.
Speaking about the Brazilian attacker in his pre-match press conference, Valverede confirmed that he could start tonight. He said, “Yes, he could get to start, it’s a possibility. But teams need to get used to new players and players to their new teams”.
Valverde touched upon comparisons between him and Iniesta, insisting that they were different players. Saying, “I don’t think he’s the same as Iniesta. Andrés is a central midfielder, while Coutinho is more of an attacking midfielder, more of a goalscorer. Rather than a replacement for Iniesta, I’d say he’s more of a complement to him.”
The former Liverpool attacker is expected to start ahead of Andres Iniesta on the left, with Lionel Messi setting up shop on the right wing to give Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta a rest, with Paulinho and Sergio Busquets taking up their positions in central midfield.
Paco Alacer is expected to be given a shot tonight alongside Luis Suarez. There is a possibility that the Uruguayan may be rested completely and Messi may join Alcacer upfront, but Valverde may want him to continue enjoying his mid-season rediscovery of form.