Ronald Koeman is expected to persist with Samuel Umtiti against Deportivo Alaves in light of the injury crisis in the defensive department.
Following a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture, Barcelona are looking to learn from their mistakes when they play hosts to Deportivo Alaves on Saturday. This could be a challenging task for Ronald Koeman, who has been dealt with an unprecedented injury crisis that sees them without star players like Gerard Pique, Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto, Ronald Araujo and Philippe Coutinho among many others.
While the Dutchman would have hoped to rest a few of his key first-team players, in light of their important Champions League matchup against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, the apparent injury crisis has left him devoid of options.
“Right now, tomorrow’s game is more important than Tuesday’s. We are going game by game and we want to continue our good streak in La Liga,” said Koeman during the pre-match press conference, when asked about the impending clash against the French champions in midweek.
Koeman is set to have a difficult time selecting his eleven, particularly in the defensive department, where his team has constantly underperformed. Their job won’t be made any easier by the absence of Araujo, who had become a bright spot in an otherwise dire defensive unit for Barcelona this season.
“Araujo is injured; we will talk with him and with the doctors. It is important to know what the risk factor is of playing him against PSG. We have not decided yet,” Koeman replied, when asked about the absence of the Uruguayan ace.
Araujo, Pique, Dest and Roberto, in fact, have all been ruled out against Alaves, which means Koeman may have to persist with the defensive combination of Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti. They will be aided by the two full-backs in Oscar Mingueza and Junior Firpo, who could earn a rare opportunity as the Barcelona manager looks to give Jordi Alba an important breather.
The Dutchman may not have the privilege of shuffling his pack in midfield, however, as Miralem Pjanic remains a doubt. As such, the midfield trifecta of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri could continue, although the latter is unlikely to play whole the ninety minutes, with Riqui Puig available as an alternative.
Koeman, during his press conference, heaped praise on Pedri regarding his rapid rise to prominence, stating, “You have to give opportunities to young players in order to grow. Pedri’s case is incredible, but there are some who need more time to grow which is normal,” suggesting he could play a vital role in the upcoming match against PSG.
Meanwhile, in the offensive unit, the Barcelona boss could stick with the attacking trifecta of Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann, in light of the continued absence of Fati and Coutinho. Even Martin Brathwaite is a slight doubt, although Koeman has confirmed that the Dane has trained with the team.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen; Mingueza, Umtiti, Lenglet, Firpo; Pedri, Busquets, de Jong; Dembele, Messi, Griezmann