Ivan Rakitic has been rested by Ernesto Valverde ahead of Barcelona’s trip to the Basque Country to take on Deportivo Alaves at the Mendizorrotza.
Barcelona will be hoping to take another significant step towards winning the La Liga title for the second successive year, when they visit the Mendizorrotza to take on Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday night. And, Ernesto Valverde continues to manage his squad smartly, heading into the midweek fixture.
The Barcelona boss has left Ivan Rakitic out of the matchday squad, with the Croat being given a rest keeping in mind next week’s UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against Liverpool. In his stead, Sergio Busquets should start as the deepest lying midfielder.
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Speaking of rest, during his pre-match press conference Valverde was asked about fatigue possibly affecting his players in the run-in, amid a pile-up of fixtures, and the manager expressed his delight over his squad looking in good shape ahead of the trip to face Alaves.
The Barcelona boss explained (h/t Barca Blaugranes), “They look good to me. It’s normal at this stage of the season there’s a bit of tiredness, but likewise we get a boost from how we feel. And when he look at the challenges ahead that eliminates the fatigue. The problem is when there are no objectives ahead and you have nothing to chase, that leaves you feeling a bit more tired.”
Busquets should be joined by Arturo Vidal in Barcelona’s three-man midfield axis, but Arthur is another player who could be given the night off against Alaves. In place of the Brazilian, Carles Alena is likely to get a chance to impress Valverde.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a certain starter in goal, as are Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba in the back four. Valverde has usually rotated Clement Lenglet every now and then with Samuel Umtiti to let the latter rack up some minutes and get his confidence back. But, Lenglet should form the central defensive partnership with Pique against Alaves.
The right-back slot though, should see a change, with Sergi Roberto replacing Nelson Semedo, although the Barcelona manager hinted that both the players could start as well. Valverde said, “It’s a possibility we could play them both tomorrow. We did in the other game against Alaves because we had a lot of players who’d returned late from the World Cup.”
But, this time around against Alaves, only Roberto should start, with Semedo returning to the bench. Up ahead in attack, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi are expected to start before possibly getting a rest this weekend. The final spot in the side though, should see Philippe Coutinho return, with Ousmane Dembele and Malcom being backup options.