Ousmane Dembele is available for selection, but is unlikely to be handed a start when Barcelona face off against Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League.

Barcelona will lock horns with Premier League heavyweights Manchester United in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

With the La Liga title almost in the bag, Barcelona will have their focus on advancing further in the Champions League and will be aiming to gain a big advantage going into the second leg at home. And the fact that they have only two players injured ahead of the game will hold them in good stead.

Defender Thomas Vermaelen is injured and has not been included in the 22-man travelling squad named by manager Ernesto Valverde ahead of the game. Along with the former Arsenal man, midfielder Rafinha Alcantara is the only other injury-enforced absentee for Barcelona.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen is the undisputed starter between the sticks for the Catalan outfit. Former Manchester United man Gerard Pique will line up at the heart of the defence on his return to Old Trafford. He is likely to be paired up with Clement Lenglet, who has displaced compatriot Samuel Umtiti as the first-choice.

Jordi Alba is a guaranteed starter in the left-back slot for Barcelona. Sergi Roberto and Nelson Semedo will battle it out for the right-back position, with the former likely to get the nod, having been preferred in recent matches by the manager.

Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic are ever-presents in the middle of the park for Barcelona and that is unlikely to change when they take the field at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. Arthur Melo is likely to edge out Arturo Vidal for the third midfield slot in the starting lineup for the visitors.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi is a certainty to feature from the kick-off on the right side of the attacking trident. The 31-year-old has not scored in his last 11 quarter-final appearances in the Champions League and will want to set that record straight. He will get ample support from Luis Suarez, who is back in top form.

Ousmane Dembele has been the preferred option on the left flank, but having been injured for the past few weeks, the Frenchman might not be rushed back into action on Wednesday.

Speaking of Dembele in his pre-match press conference, manager Valverde said (h/t Barca Blaugranes), “We’ll see how he looks. This is not like the Lyon match, it’s not the second leg, it’s only the first. We forced him then and he got injured, and I will not run the risk of this happening again.”

With Valverde hinting at taking a more cautious approach with Dembele, Philippe Coutinho is set to make it to the starting XI once again on the left flank, on his return to England.

Leave A Comment...

*