Philippe Coutinho is in line to start for Barcelona while Ousmane Dembele is out for the Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg fixture against Valencia at Camp Nou.

Barcelona will be looking to gain an invaluable advantage in the first-leg of the semi-final, as they host Valencia at Nou Camp. The Catalans’ task though, has been made a bit trickier, with Ousmane Dembele among the absentees for Ernesto Valverde, with the player still sidelined with a muscle injury.

Even though Yerry Mina has been included in the 18-man squad for the visit of Valencia, Ernesto Valverde is likely to stick with the pairing of Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti in central defence, with Nelson Semedo guarding the right flank. Jordi Alba was perhaps, rested over the weekend and should start ahead of Lucas Digne on Thursday.

Andre Gomes has also not been included in the 18-man squad. The players to start should and is likely to depend on Valverde’s choice of formation, with the manager also opting for a strange 4-4-2 in recent times. With Coutinho’s arrival, the manager should revert to a 4-3-3, with Sergio Busquets at the base of the 3-man midfield.

Andres Iniesta and Paulinho should be the two midfielders, with Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi the frontmen. Alternatively, Valverde could put Coutinho in midfield alongside Iniesta, with Paulinho being shifted into the 3-man attack.

Although, Valverde hinted at Coutinho’s starting position in his pre-match conference.

“He’s a player that adapts well to many positions. He can play inside left, or right and is very versatile.”

Valverde’s statement points towards a place in wide attack for Coutinho, with the player most likely to start on the right as Messi ideally, dons the left side of the three-man attack.

The manager was also appreciative of Valencia’s season so far and said that, while Barcelona made quick work of Valencia during their last visit to the Nou Camp – a 7-0 scoreline – it is unlikely to be the case this time around, with the manager expecting a closely contested game on Thursday.

“It won’t be like the last time, a 7-0 is not normal for a first game. Valencia were in a delicate position then, but now they have a team that is good enough to win any match. They’re a rival with very fast strikers and wingers, and the distance between the lines are short. A classic 4-4-2 formation is simple and well-worked, and they are counter-attack specialists.”

Barcelona will be eager to take one step towards becoming one of the finalists of Copa del Rey as they host Valencia on Thursday at the Nou Camp at 2130 CET.

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