Tottenham will still have to face Lionel Messi in do-or-die Champions League clash despite Barcelona already being through but other stars could be rested ahead of Levante test
- Ernesto Valverde will not hesitate to bring in younger less experienced players
- Resting players against Spurs is not likely to stretch to leaving out Lionel Messi
- He was at his mesmerising best in Catalan derby, scoring two direct free-kicks
- Luis Suarez may miss out following return from injury as he has knee problems
- While winger Ousmane Dembele turned up two hours late for training on Sunday
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was asked by an Italian journalist on Saturday if he could give assurances to Inter Milan fans that his team would do everything to beat Spurs on Tuesday night.
His answer: ‘Inter fans can relax we will play the best team for the interests of Barcelona and try to beat Tottenham,’ was a sort of yes and no.
Of course Barcelona will try to win the game but the team will be picked according to the interests of Barcelona and if that means resting some big players who could do with some down time ahead of a difficult away trip to sixth in the table Levante at the weekend then Valverde will not hesitate to bring in some younger less experienced players.
Ernesto Valverde will not hesitate to bring in younger less experienced players against Spurs
The bad news for Tottenham fans is that resting players is not likely to stretch to leaving out Lionel Messi who was at his mesmerising best in the Catalan derby on Saturday scoring two direct free-kicks in the same game in the league for the first time in his career.
Asked afterwards by Sportsmail if he believed Messi had been annoyed by being placed fifth in the Ballon d’Or Valverde said he was not sure but that he thought the decision to leave him out of the top three was strange.
He certainly seemed on a mission against Espanyol and his other big mission this season is putting himself and Barcelona back on top in Europe so he is unlikely to take it easy against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
He may be without Luis Suarez if Valverde feels that the Uruguayan, who came back from injury at the weekend but has ongoing knee problems, could do without playing two games in four days.
Another decision for the coach to make will be whether or not to discipline French winger Ousmane Dembele who turned up two hours late for training on Sunday. His latest misdemeanour was kept off at least one of the front pages of the sports papers in the city – it seems the desire to make him the bad boy who needs to be sold has greatly diminished. No wonder, on present form. He was excellent against Espanyol scoring one and setting up another.
According to Catalan radio RAC1 he called the club apologetically to say he had slept in and then drove to the training ground where he was put through his paces alone by the club’s physical trainer Edu Pons.
Bad news for Spurs fans is that resting players is not likely to stretch to leaving out Lionel Messi
He was at his mesmerising best in the Catalan derby on Saturday, scoring two direct free-kicks
The last time he failed to show for training Valverde kept him out of the squad for a week. The team suffered because they were beaten by Betis. It seems unlikely that he will be disciplined in the same way this time.
If Suarez does start alongside Dembele and Messi then Tottenham will be facing a front three that has played a part in 46 of the 61 goals the team has scored this season. At the expense of the dropped Philippe Coutinho those three are forming the most effective strike force seen at the Nou Camp since Neymar’s days.
In midfield the Brazilian Arthur Melo is back from injury so either Arturo Vidal or Ivan Rakitic could be rested. At the back the question is whether or not Valverde risks leaving out linchpin Gerard Pique and brings in Thomas Vermaelen.
Luis Suarez may miss out following his return from injury at weekend as he has knee problems
If Valverde really wants to upset Inter supporters and protect his players he could also bring in 18-year-old left back Joan Miranda for his debut instead of Jordi Alba or, more likely, 20-year-old midfielder Carles Alena in midfield.
Barcelona have made the Champions League their priority this season – Messi made that much clear at the start of the season – and yet they have still managed to stay top of La Liga.
They don’t need anything from this game but that upcoming league game against Levante is not until Sunday so the big guns could still be rolled out.
The biggest gun of the lot seems certain to start and with Messi in the form he was in at the weekend and out to finish top scorer of this season’s Champions League that will be problem enough for Pochettino regardless of who lines up alongside him.
Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele turned up two hours late for training on Sunday
WHICH BARCELONA TEAM WILL TOTTENHAM HAVE TO FACE?
Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba
Rakitic, Busquets, Arturo Vidal
Messi, Suarez, Dembele
The (Partial) Reserves:
Semedo, Vermalen, Lenglet, Miranda
Arthur, Busquets, Carles Alena
Messi, Munir, Coutinho