Ernesto Valverde will hope Ousmane Dembele can do an amicable job in the shoes of Lionel Messi as Barcelona face Inter Milan in the Champions League.
Barcelona finally returned to winning ways in the league after a torrid time, thanks mostly to a cameo from Lionel Messi. The Argentinian forward though, will be unavailable as Barcelona take on Inter Milan and perhaps, for a few more matches, which could prove to be a real test for Ernesto Valverde and his men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is certain to start in goal. In fact, the entire back four is almost etched in permanent markers, especially with Thomas Vermaelen and Samuel Umtiti out injured. Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet are the designated centre-backs, with Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto to deputise on either side of the pair.
Sergio Busquets may not be in his elements. But, the midfielder is still a certain name, with no real alternative for the icon. Ivan Rakitic should command one of the two remaining slots. As far as the last spot in midfield is concerned, Arthur Melo is really coming into his own and should start, after a brilliant performance in Barcelona’s 4-2 win over Tottenham in their last Champions League clash.
The biggest miss will be Lionel Messi. The talisman injured his shoulder and will be out for a fair period of time, starting with the Champions League match against Inter Milan. Ernesto Valverde highlighted the difficulty of replacing someone like Messi in his pre-match conference while also iterating that he believes he has enough players in the squad to mitigate the effect of the Argentine’s absence.
“It’s a challenge for us all as a team. But we have a number of other players that can cover for him.”
Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha and Malcom were the names raised by Ernesto Valverde as potential replacements for Messi during his absence. And it is likely that Dembele will get the nod ahead of the other two for Wednesday.
Coutinho should command the left wing, with the out-of-form Luis Suarez set to lead the Barcelona attack. The Uruguayan will be hoping to come in clutch, especially with Lionel Messi’s absence seeing him shoulder more responsibility in attack.