Barcelona are set to hand Thomas Vermaelen an opportunity against Malaga when they face them in the La Liga this weekend. Centre back Gerard Pique picked up a knock in the Catalan derby but he continued to play the games. The Spaniard is often seen clutching his knee in games but he claims he is fit.
The official statement from the team doctor is that Pique is fine but Coach Ernesto Valverde admitted that it was risky for the player to continue. He agreed that the player could have been sidelined for two or three weeks to get full fitness. He is now expected to sit out the league game this week and could be wrapped with wool for the crucial return leg fixture against Chelsea in the Champions League.
Samuel Umtiti is fit to lead the defence but then Vermaelen could get his shot. There is also Yerry Mina, who is always an attacking threat going forward despite being a defender. Valverde could take the risk against a struggling side in the La Liga but then there would be plans for the experienced Pique to feature against the Blues next week.
Lionel Messi will play against Malaga despite a rotation hinting that the Argentine should rest. He is keen on ensuring that the club hold on to their eight point lead in the league. Luis Suarez is reportedly battling fitness but is expected to shake it off before the Chelsea clash. With Philippe Coutinho cup-tied for the Champions League, the Brazilian will partner Messi in attack against Malaga. Ousmane Dembele is another star that could join the pair in attack. Denis Suarez and Nelson Semedo, and Andres Iniesta are sidelined.