Ernesto Valverde has just one player on the sidelines ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League opener against PSV Eindhoven at Camp Nou on Tuesday.
Barcelona will be aiming to begin their Champions League campaign on a winning note, when they play hosts to PSV Eindhoven in a Group B tie at Camp Nou on Tuesday night. And, Ernesto Valverde will be buoyed by the fact that he could soon be boasting of a clean bill of health.
Two first-team players have returned to full training this week, with Denis Suarez (hamstring) and Malcom (ankle) recovering from their respective injuries. That leaves just Sergi Samper on the treatment table, with the midfielder recovering from a long-term ankle injury.
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Denis and Malcom though, have been excluded from Barcelona’s matchday squad, and rightly so, with the game coming too soon for them. Meanwhile, Valverde talked about the importance of beginning the Champions League campaign on a strong note, against a tricky opponent such as PSV, during his pre-match press conference.
“PSV are the Dutch champions and one of the strongest teams in Europe. They like to control the play and I can’t see them changing that for the sake of a single game. We all want to win this competition. The Champions League is always a special motivation for the players and that’s ideal for the team.”
PSV have been in menacing touch at the start of the season, albeit in Eredivisie. Valverde is unlikely to take the visitors lightly, and should name his strongest starting lineup on Tuesday, starting with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who will be keen to build on his man-of-the-match performance against Real Sociedad this past weekend.
The big decision in the four-man backline will be regarding the right-back slot, while Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba are automatic selections. Sergi Roberto should return to the right side of the Barcelona defence, with Nelson Semedo failing to impress thus far this season.
Meanwhile, Philippe Coutinho is set to make his Champions League debut for Barcelona, after sitting out the European games for them in the second half of last season. The Brazilian should join Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic in the three-man midfield unit, with Arturo Vidal starting on the bench once again.
Upfront, there is no debate as to the selection of the attacking trident, with Barcelona captain Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez joining in-form Ousmane Dembele to complete a formidable lineup that ought to be strong enough to dispatch PSV on Tuesday.