Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique will return while Arthur is in contention to start when Barcelona take on Valencia at the Mestalla on Saturday.
Barcelona will be eager to keep a firm grip on the top spot in La Liga when they lock horns with Valencia at the Mestalla on Saturday evening. And, Quique Setien is set to recall a number of first-team regulars for his side’s latest fixture.
Setien had decided to rest several stars when Barcelona had taken on UD Ibiza in the Copa del Rey Round of 32. One of these players was Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who would have returned in goal either way, with Neto sidelined with an ankle sprain. Inaki Pena will be ter Stegen’s deputy against Valencia.
Setien should name his side in his trademark 3-5-2 formation yet again, as the players continue to get familiar with the new system. Gerard Pique, who was rested completely in the cup tie should return in the back three. Pique will be accompanied by Clement Lenglet and another player who did not feature for Barcelona in midweek, Samuel Umtiti, at the back.
The 1️⃣8️⃣ for the trip to Valencia!
𝘚𝘖𝘔-𝘏𝘐 !! 💪🔵🔴 pic.twitter.com/cdVnjoUvnh
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 24, 2020
With Pique, Lenglet and Umtiti partnering up in the back three, Sergi Roberto will likely move into the right wing-back slot, having featured as a centre-back in the two games under Setien so far. On the opposite flank, former Valencia star Jordi Alba is a certain starter.
The big decisions will be taken in the middle of the park. Sergio Busquets is a certain starter as the Anchor Man, having been given a rest last time out. Busquets’s return means Frenkie de Jong will likely be deployed in a more advanced role. Ivan Rakitic, Arthur and Arturo Vidal will contest for the final spot in midfield, with Riqui Puig unavailable for selection due to illness.
Arthur is likely to get the nod over Rakitic and Vidal for his first start since December 1, having come off the bench in each of the last two games. As for attack, Antoine Griezmann has been the man in form for Barcelona and Setien spoke about the possibility of the Frenchman leading the line in the long run during his pre-match press conference (h/t Barca Blaugranes).
“He’s an option, he really is. Now we don’t have a specific No. 9, Griezmann is an alternative. He did a good job the other day and helped us a lot. Obviously we will take that into account. He breaks away from his marker well.”
Griezmann will once again start in the strike partnership, where he ought to have Lionel Messi for company. Barcelona captain Messi was another player who was given a breather for the trip to Ibiza but has travelled to Valencia. Messi will play off Griezmann, pulling the strings in the final third.
Predicted Barcelona XI: ter Stegen; Pique, Lenglet, Umtiti; Roberto, de Jong, Busquets, Arthur, Alba; Messi, Griezmann