Antoine Griezmann is expected to return to the starting lineup as Barcelona gear up to take on SD Eibar at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium on Saturday.
Barcelona will be aiming to pick up just their second away win of the 2019-20 season, when they travel to the Ipurua to face off against Jose Luis Mendilibar’s Eibar in a Matchday Nine fixture.
A win on Saturday would allow Barcelona to jump to the top of the La Liga table. And they have been greeted with some good news heading into the game as defenders Samuel Umtiti and Junior Firpo are fit again and back in the squad for the weekend trip.
However, the Blaugrana will have to make do without defensive leader Gerard Pique, who is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the last game against Sevilla. Also suspended for the tie are young defender Ronald Araujo and attacker Ousmane Dembele, both of whom were sent off in the last match.
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Speaking of Umtiti in his pre-match presser, manager Ernesto Valverde said (h/t Sport), “Samuel Umtiti is training as normal. He’s done so for the second consecutive day and we hope he’s able to return to action.” However, the Frenchman is unlikely to get the nod on Saturday, despite Pique’s absence.
Instead, the two centre-half slots are likely to be occupied by Umtiti’s compatriots Jean-Clair Todibo and Clement Lenglet, who is back in reckoning after serving out his one-match ban. Jordi Alba is fully fit and should start at left-back, allowing Nelson Semedo to return to his natural right-back slot against Eibar. Marc-Andre ter Stegen is the undisputed choice in goal.
Valverde opted to leave out Sergio Busquets in the last game in favour of Arturo Vidal. However, the manager is expected to recall the seasoned campaigner for Saturday’s encounter. Frenkie de Jong and Arthur have nailed down the other two slots in the middle of the park.
Barcelona captain Lionel Messi played his first full game of the season in La Liga last time out and is showing signs of form after an injury-hit start to the season. However, Valverde stressed that it was important not to overwork the Argentine as he amps up his recovery.
“He is in the process of being 100 percent fit. The other day he played 90 minutes and scored, that always reassures the strikers. He has to go slowly to find reach top form. He only has one full game under his belt. We hope he can give us much more in the coming matches,” he said. (h/t MARCA)
Messi is a guaranteed starter on the right flank for Barcelona against Eibar, but it is likely that he will not play the entire game. Luis Suarez, who has scored in all of Barcelona’s last three matches in all competitions, will lead the line at the Ipurua.
There will be one forced change in attack, as Dembele is suspended for the tie and the subsequent appeal to get his ban lifted failed. While Ansu Fati is a tempting choice, Valverde is likely to hand marquee summer signing Antoine Griezmann a start on the left flank on Saturday.
Predicted Barcelona XI: ter Stegen; Semedo, Todibo, Lenglet, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann