Ernesto Valverde will have just three first-team players on the sidelines when Barcelona welcome Celta Vigo to Camp Nou on Saturday evening.
Barcelona will be aiming to end 2018 as the La Liga leaders, with Celta Vigo being their final opponents they face this year before the winter break. But, the resurgent Galician outfit will pose a big threat to the recent unbeaten run that Ernesto Valverde’s men have built recently, when they visit Camp Nou on Saturday.
Defence is the only area that is posing some sort of a problem for the Barcelona boss, with both Samuel Umtiti (knee) and Thomas Vermaelen (calf) on the sidelines. The absence of the duo left Valverde with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet as the only recognised centre-backs at his disposal.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 21, 2018
But, Barcelona have bolstered their backline by signing Jeison Murillo on loan from Valencia for the rest of the season. And, the Colombian defender was one of the subjects that the manager was quizzed about during his pre-match press conference.
“It’s never easy to find players in the market who are exactly what you need at that time. We don’t have a lot of time as we play two games a week. The idea was to find a player at a high level who knows the League, Murillo had those characteristics. It isn’t easy to find players like that, but it’s gone well.”
Murillo though, is unlikely to be thrust into the starting lineup straightaway, meaning Pique and Lenglet should start at the heart of the Barcelona defence, with Valverde reverting to the 4-3-3. Nelson Semedo is fit and available after missing out due to a minor knee injury, while Sergi Roberto has recovered from his injury as well.
But, the Spaniard has been excluded from the matchday squad, meaning Semedo should be the right-back on Saturday. On the opposite flank, there is no replacing Jordi Alba, who has been one of the best players for Barcelona this season.
In midfield, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets have started every league game they have been available for, and the duo should be part of the starting lineup against Celta Vigo as well. The third spot in the middle of the park is likely to be handed to the fit-again Arthur, who should replace Arturo Vidal.
Up ahead in attack, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are certain starters, with the duo being the form players for Barcelona. The final spot in the side is a toss-up between Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho, with the former likely to get the nod owing to superior form.