Barcelona will once again be without the services of captain and talisman Lionel Messi, when they gear up to take on Valencia this weekend.
After a stuttering start to the 2019-20 La Liga season, Barcelona will be hoping for a turnaround of fortunes when they host Valencia at Camp Nou on Saturday night.
The reigning La Liga champions have collected just four points from the nine available, with their latest fixture ending in a 2-2 draw against Osasuna. But, the last time they played at home, they trounced Real Betis 5-2 and will be keen on putting on a similar showing when Los Che come visiting.
Manager Ernesto Valverde will be without the services of defender Samuel Umtiti owing to a fractured metatarsal that is set to keep him out of action for 5-6 weeks, while former Valencia man Neto is also ruled out. Nelson Semedo, however, is fit and available for selection, after having been stretchered off with an ankle injury while on international duty with Portugal.
This means one can expect Valverde to make no changes to his backline on Saturday, with Semedo and Jordi Alba taking up the two full-back slots, while Gerard Pique partners Clement Lenglet at the heart of the Barcelona defence. First-choice goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is the obvious pick between the sticks for the Blaugrana.
The midfield department is where things get tricky for the manager in terms of selection, given the wealth of options at his disposal. Sergio Busquets is pretty much a guaranteed starter at the base of the three-man midfield for Barcelona, but there is serious competition within the squad for the remaining two positions.
Summer arrival Frenkie de Jong hasn’t had the best of starts to life with Barcelona, but given what he is capable of, Valverde is likely to stick with him against Valencia. Arthur Melo made an important contribution coming on from the bench against Osasuna and is likely to be rewarded with a start at the expense of Sergi Roberto. Carles Alena and Ivan Rakitic will miss out once again.
Barcelona will go into the game without the services of captain Lionel Messi. The little magician is still recovering from a thigh injury he suffered last month and the manager said that he will not be rushed back into action.
Speaking in his pre-match presser, Valverde said (h/t MARCA), “The fact he isn’t available is significant, I won’t deny that. He is a decisive player, especially against teams that sit deep. We hope that he’ll be back soon and we especially hope that he returns well because we don’t want to take a backwards step.”
Along with Messi, Ousmane Dembele also remains sidelined for Barcelona. However, there is a major boost for the Catalans with star striker Luis Suarez returning to the fold after missing the last two matches. The Barcelona No. 9 is expected to walk straight back into the starting XI on Saturday, with support coming from Antoine Griezmann and Carles Perez from the wide areas.
Predicted Barcelona XI: ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Perez, Suarez, Griezmann