Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Aleix Vidal could return to action for the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday night (17 May), easing Barcelona’s defensive woes.
Sergi Roberto and Luis Suarez will miss the game through suspension but Luis Enrique refuses to use the absence of the duo as an excuse ahead of his last game in charge of the Catalans.
Pique and Mascherano are yet to feature since the 4-1 victory over Villarreal on 6 May. The Spaniard required hospital treatment after suffering abdominal pain due to a mysterious illness while the former Liverpool star picked up a thigh knock warming up to play the Yellow Submarine.
Vidal has been out of action for more than three months after undergoing surgery in his ankle earlier on February.
However, the three Barcelona defenders have been training with the rest of their teammates this week and Luis Enrique feels the trio could all be available to face Alaves on Saturday.
The news is a big boost for Luis Enrique as Sergi Roberto is suspended, while Jeremy Mathieu and Rafinha Alcantara also remain sidelined.
Pique is expected to lead the back-line alongside Samuel Umtiti, while Luis Enrique said that he could have up to four different alternatives to cover the absence of Sergi Roberto in Mascherano, Vidal, the ever-versatile Andre Gomes and left-back Lucas Digne.
“Mascherano arrives in good condition. I have several options to cover the right-back role. Andre Gomes has played there [in recent times]. It’s not his position but he can do it. I could use Lucas Digne and Aleix could also play if the doctors give him medical clearance in the morning. I have many options,” the Barcelona boss said in the press conference ahead of the final.
“I understand that a squad like Barcelona must be ready to overcome any casualties. I have several options and for the opponent it will also be an uncertainty. I am not going to give them any clue.”
Luis Suarez will not feature alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar in attack due to suspension. However, Luis Enrique has backed his side to beat Alaves regardless, ending his Barcelona tenure by lifting the Copa del Rey title for the third year in a row.
“It will be a special match as it is an opportunity to end with a trophy. We are excited about having the chance to win such an important competition and end my time in charge with another trophy,” Luis Enrique said.
“We need to be ready for any situation, Alaves are on a good run and they are this season’s surprise package. They have had an excellent season, they are very intense and they use the long ball to Deyverson and the wingers well. Also, they press well and are impressive in transition.”
Source: Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal, International Business Times