Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are fit to start as Barcelona prepare to host Espanyol at Camp Nou in the second Derby Barceloni of the season.
Barcelona will be aiming to continue their winning run in La Liga, when they welcome local rivals Espanyol to Camp Nou on Saturday evening. And, Ernesto Valverde does not have any fresh pressing injury concerns ahead of the Barcelona derby.
During his pre-match press conference, the Barcelona boss talked about the importance of not letting up in what he described to be the “decisive phase of the season” for his side. He said, “It’s a derby and both sides are motivated. Now the decisive part of the season is upon us and we know what is at stake.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 29, 2019
There is one casualty from the international break, with Jasper Cillessen sustaining a hip injury while on duty for Netherlands. But, the 29-year-old, who is only likely to be out for a week or two, is a backup goalkeeper, meaning there is not a huge concern over his short-term absence, with Inaki Pena taking his place in the matchday squad for this week.
Pena though, like Cillessen, will be the deputy to Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who will be deployed between the sticks for Barcelona. The defensive line is unlikely to see any change against Espanyol, with Sergi Roberto and Clement Lenglet seemingly usurping Nelson Semedo and Samuel Umtiti, respectively. Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba will occupy the other two slots.
Up ahead in midfield, there is no looking past Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic for two of the positions. The three-man axis will likely be completed by Arthur, especially considering Arturo Vidal returned late from international duty with Chile.
Meanwhile, in attack, there had been concerns over the availability of star duo Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, both of whom had picked up injuries post the Real Betis game. But, Valverde allayed those fears during his presser (h/t Barca Blaugranes), hinting that both Messi and Suarez should start.
“We think [he’s 100 per cent]. Leo has had these niggles for a while and we are taking care of that. Before Christmas he had these problems and we have been working with him to resolve them. The process with the national team is the same. Now he is back and he feels better for the coming games.”
“Leo was spectacular before the international break, then he went away and got injured, it’s just a circumstance. He [Suarez] is good, we’re taking precautions with him as there is a risk of a little scare. He could suffer another knock, but the break has been good for him.”
Messi and Suarez should thus, keep their places in attack. And, with Ousmane Dembele still out with a hamstring injury, the team will be completed by Philippe Coutinho, who was only an injury-time substitute in the 4-1 win over Real Betis last time out.