Ousmane Dembele is likely to come in for Philippe Coutinho when Barcelona welcome Real Sociedad to Camp Nou on Saturday.
Barcelona will be hoping to take another step towards defending their La Liga crown when they play hosts to Real Sociedad at Camp Nou on Saturday night. And, Ernesto Valverde has nearly all of his first-team players available to him ahead of a potentially tricky fixture.
In goal, there is no debate as to who will start against Real Sociedad, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen being the firm first-choice option for Barcelona. Ahead of him, there should be plenty of shuffles in order on Saturday.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 19, 2019
Samuel Umtiti has not had the best of times, since returning from injury, but he is being given every opportunity to rediscover his best form. And, Valverde was quizzed about the Frenchman’s indifferent form in recent games during his pre-match press conference. (h/t Barca Blaugranes)
The Barcelona boss gave his backing to Umtiti, saying he is confident that he will be back to his best soon, “He is a player who is with us and we want him to be as good as possible, neither you nor I are doctors and we’ll see how he is. We think he’s OK.”
Umtiti should return to the starting lineup to partner Gerard Pique at the heart of the Barcelona defence on Saturday, with Clement Lenglet being afforded a rest. In the left-back slot, there is no alternative to Jordi Alba, especially for a potentially problematic opponent such as Real Sociedad.
On the opposite flank, the rotation should continue, with Nelson Semedo likely to replace Sergi Roberto. Up ahead in midfield, one change is almost certain, with Arturo Vidal returning to the starting lineup to allow Arthur to put his feet up after a job well done against Manchester United.
Carles Alena is also in contention to feature on Saturday. But, it is likely that Valverde will continue with Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets, so as to ensure the desired result. Another major topic of discussion was Philippe Coutinho and his controversial gesture after scoring against Manchester United.
“In regard to criticism, we are in the world of football and subject to continuous criticism. Coutinho is the same as everyone. I have not talked with him. He made a gesture. What surprises me is that they talk more about the gesture than the goal.”
I did not find anything special and I did not think it was disrespectful to anyone. We give a lot of hype to anecdotal things. Coutinho has had a year in which he has suffered criticism, but the important thing is that he played a match that I am happy with.”
While Valverde has given his backing to Coutinho, it is likely that Ousmane Dembele will replace the Brazilian so as to continue his gradual easing back into the first-team setup. Finally, the team should be completed with the attacking stalwarts Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, leaving Coutinho and Malcom as backup options on the bench.