Ousmane Dembele’s availability is in doubt ahead of Barcelona’s Round of 16 second leg in the UEFA Champions League against Lyon on Wednesday.
Barcelona will be aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League for a record 12th consecutive campaign when they play hosts to Lyon at Camp Nou in their Round of 16 second leg at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night.
Ernesto Valverde appeared to be confident of his side’s chances of making it to the next stage of the competition during his pre-match press conference, iterating that they have prepared appropriately to get over the line and are also hoping to be supported well by the Camp Nou faithfuls.
“We are prepared to play a good game, to always look to score and do what we know: face up to the opponent and try to win. We have to win. We’ve asked the Camp Nou to be with us, although we already know that the supporters will be, but what we have to do is play in a way that ensures that the fans get even more involved.”
As for team news, the Barcelona boss does not have many pressing concerns ahead of Lyon’s visit, with two of the absentees being bit-part players – Rafinha and Thomas Vermaelen. Vermaelen’s absence, in particular, does not hurt, with Samuel Umtiti now fully fit.
However, recent team selection suggests that Valverde has been looking to rotate the former Lyon star so as to not risk a recurrence of his long-standing knee problem. To that end, Clement Lenglet could end up taking Umtiti’s place at the heart of the defence, with the ever-present Gerard Pique being his partner.
The right-back slot will once more be a toss-up between Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto, with the former likely to get nod, while Jordi Alba should complete the Barcelona backline that will provide cover to Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
In midfield, there is no looking past the trio of Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Arthur for a game of such magnitude. The real concern though, surrounds the availability of Ousmane Dembele, who is struggling to shrug off a minor hamstring injury. While commenting on his problem (h/t MARCA), Valverde said that he will take a late call on his involvement.
“We’ll see how he is and then we’ll decide. If he is not ok then he will not play. It’s a decisive match and we can’t risk having to replace him. [Lionel] Messi has also missed games. I do not give much thought to whether Dembele will play or not, rather I focus on getting his substitute right.”
Judging by Valverde’s comments, it looks likely that Dembele will miss out on a place in the starting lineup to face Lyon, meaning Philippe Coutinho will get another chance to prove himself, lining up on the left of the Barcelona attack. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, meanwhile, pick themselves.