Gerard Pique and Arturo Vidal are fit and available while Samuel Umtiti is set to return when Barcelona take on Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.
A place in the Copa del Rey semi-finals will be up for grabs when Barcelona travel to San Mames to lock horns with Athletic Bilbao on Thursday night. And, Quique Setien has been dealt with a fresh injury setback ahead of his side’s latest fixture.
Ousmane Dembele has suffered a torn hamstring while on the process of returning from a previous injury. The fresh setback has ruled the Frenchman out for several months. However, there is some good news, with Gerard Pique and Arturo Vidal fit and available.
Pique missed training this week due to illness, while Vidal is only just back from a thigh injury that had ruled him out of the game against Levante this past weekend. Setien, during his pre-match presser, (h/t Barca Blaugranes), provided a positive update on the duo.
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“He [Pique] had a fever but I don’t think it’s too important. We’ll see how he develops. I think it’s “almost certain” he’ll be able to play. [Vidal] has overcome the small niggle that he had and trained perfectly well today. He feels good and is fit to play tomorrow.”
With Pique suspended for this weekend’s La Liga clash with Real Betis, it is likely that the veteran defender will start at the heart of the Barcelona defence. Samuel Umtiti ought to partner Pique, with Clement Lenglet being given a bit of a breather.
Another play due a rest is Jordi Alba, who should make way for Junior Firpo in the left-back slot. On the opposite flank, Sergi Roberto is expected to get a chance to impress. In goal, with Neto still out injured, Marc-Andre ter Stegen picks himself as Barcelona’s custodian once again.
Up ahead in midfield, Setien has all his resources available to him. While Vidal is fit to start, he could be preserved till the weekend. In his stead, Arthur could get a start, with Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets being certainties in the middle of the park.
As for attack, the big blow has come in the form of Dembele’s unavailability. Setien expressed his dejection at having the Frenchman face another injury issue. The Barcelona manager said, “I was very excited to get Dembele back and this is obviously an unfortunate situation. We’ll see if it’s a long time out and we can sign someone.”
“I am worried not about Dembele as a footballer but as a person. He’s an extraordinary kid. He works with intensity and desire to come back because it could be five or three or four months sidelined from doing what he wants and that’s what really hurts me.”
With Luis Suarez also out injured, Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Ansu Fati pick themselves in the three-pronged attack against Athletic Bilbao. Alex Collado, who is one of five Barcelona B players part of the travelling squad, will be a backup option, as far as attack is concerned.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Firpo; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Griezmann, Fati