Samuel Umtiti is set to return to the starting lineup as Barcelona prepare to do the league double over arch rivals Real Madrid on Saturday.
Barcelona will have their mind set on beating bitter rivals Real Madrid twice in three days, as the two teams take on each other at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night. The Catalans defeated Santiago Solari’s men 0-3 on Wednesday, to eliminate them from the Copa del Rey and will be hoping to register another victory to heap further misery on the hosts.
Another good news from the thumping win over their bitter rivals was the fact that there were no fresh injury concerns for Ernesto Valverde to deal with, as Thomas Vermaelen (calf) and Rafinha remain the only players on the treatment table. Meanwhile, Jean-Clair Todibo, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sergi Samper have been excluded from the travelling squad due to technical reasons.
The absence of Vermaelen is not very concerning, with Samuel Umtiti now fit and available for the last couple of weeks. And, Umtiti is likely to return to the starting lineup, as Valverde continues the trend of rotating the Frenchman with compatriot Clement Lenglet, who started the cup tie against Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Gerard Pique has been an ever present in the Barcelona backline, and should partner Umtiti at the heart of the Barcelona defence. Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba are likely to be the full-backs yet again, completing the defensive line that will provide cover to first-choice goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
In midfield, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets are certain starters, especially for the biggest of games. The final spot is a toss-up between Arthur, Arturo Vidal and Sergi Roberto, who has lately been utilised in the middle of the park due to his work-rate. Valverde was quizzed about Arthur and Vidal, in particular, during his pre-match press conference.
Speaking of the duo (h/t Barca Blaugranes), the Barcelona boss said, “Arthur is a player who can do a lot to help us. A lot depends on his fitness. He came on for a little while the other day so we’ll see.”
“He [Vidal] is a player who is doing a lot for us. He helps the team a lot, he can play at any time, he’s played in some important games, maybe not as a starter but he’s come on a lot. He’s a player we find very useful, I certainly have no criticism of him.”
Roberto though, is likely to get the nod over Arthur and Vidal once again, with the objective being providing a double cover for the dangerous Vinicius Junior. Up ahead in attack, there are unlikely to be any changes, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele starting once again.