Valverde looks for squad depth ahead of season run in


Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde will be looking to reach into his first team squad as they prepare to defend in their La Liga title in the closing weeks of the season.

Barring a significant decline in form, the former Athletic Bilbao boss will oversee a second successive league title in charge at the Nou Camp, with a Champions League quarter final clash with Manchester United also to come.

However he will need to balance his squad in the coming weeks, with injuries playing a role, and the need to preserve some of his star players for European competition.

Ahead of this weekend’s clash at home to Catalonian rivals Espanyol, Valverde is likely to be without two of his first choice front three, with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele both recovering from injury.

Suarez, who withdrew from the Uruguay squad after spraining his ankle in the closing stages of their win over Real Betis, on March 17th, could be fit in time, however Valverde is likely to exercise caution with bigger games ahead.

Demebele missed the 4-1 win at the Estadio Benito Villamarin after picking up a thigh strain in the Champions League win over Lyon, and he is already ruled out until April.

Lionel Messi also returned early from international duty with Argentina, after advice from the national team’s medical staff, but Valverde has already indicated that he will be fit to play this weekend.

In the absence of Dembele, and probably Suarez, Valverde is likely to call on Brazilian Malcom and potentially Kevin-Prince Boateng.

The former has impressed during his sporadic first team opportunities since moving from Bordeaux last summer, scoring key goals in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.

However, Boateng has struggled to impose himself, with injuries and form limiting him to just two appearances since joining on loan from Sassuolo in January.

That balance will have to be found by Valverde, particularly as La Blaugrana face Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp and Manchester United home and away in the space of ten days in April.

Rest periods will be penciled in for certain players, particularly as the bulk of their key names are over 30, however Valverde will be hoping to have the league title wrapped up before the Champions League semi finals, should they get past Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side.

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