Lionel Messi is set to return to the starting lineup when Barcelona play hosts to Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg at Camp Nou
Barcelona will be hoping to take a big step towards reclaiming the UEFA Champions League title when they welcome Liverpool to Camp Nou for the first leg of their semi-finals on Wednesday night. And, Ernesto Valverde has a fully fit squad heading into the game.
Rafinha Alcantara, who was a bit-part player anyway, is the only player unavailable due to a long-term knee injury. There are no concerns whatsoever at the back, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen starting in goal for Barcelona again.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 30, 2019
In defence, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba are all certain starters in games such as the one against Liverpool. The final spot in the back four should be taken up by Sergi Roberto, as Valverde continues to rotate his right-backs in the run-in.
Up ahead in midfield, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets pick themselves for the crunch fixtures, with the latter set to return to the starting lineup after being given a lighter load this past weekend. The final spot in the middle of the park will be a toss-up between Arthur and Arturo Vidal.
With the Barcelona boss likely to place the emphasis on creativity, Arthur gets the nod over Vidal, despite the Chilean’s impressive showing this past weekend. Meanwhile, Valverde talked about Lionel Messi during his pre-match press conference (h/t Barca Blaugranes), insisting that the club captain is fully fit ahead of the Liverpool test.
“Lionel is feeling fine, and throughout this month we have been able to rest him more than others. We have been playing three games a week, we’ve played United and now it’s Liverpool. The workload is high but we are ready for this.”
Valverde was also asked about former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who has been playing just about every game lately. The Barcelona manager iterated that the Uruguayan is motivated to play against his former employers, even though he has had very little rest.
“Suarez has played every game. I’d have liked to given him a bit of a rest against Levante. I have a feeling he is motivated to play against Liverpool but Luis is motivated to play against every team. He is like that.”
Suarez should have Messi alongside him in the Barcelona attack, with Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho contending for the final place in the side. With Dembele continuing to show signs of rust, former Liverpool midfielder Coutinho should get the nod on Wednesday, having showed some improvement in recent displays.