28th November, 2018
As F.C. Barcelona prepare to trade tackles with PSV Eindhoven tonight in a Champions League cracker away from home, there are a whole of questions going through the mind of their coach Ernesto Valverde.
That is not unconnected with the number of injured players in the team’s fold right now as an aftermath of the international break.
This has naturally brought to the fore questions about who features ahead of who in today’s game.
One of such questions involve a certain Dembele who of late has been scoring vital goals for the Catalonian soccer giants.
The coach was asked about the possibility of Philippe Coutinho being picked ahead of Ousmane Dembele for today’s Champions League game. Valverde replied that it is not an automatic decision.
It will be recalled that Dembele came off the bench to score the much-needed equaliser for Barcelona in a 1-1 LaLiga draw with Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Coutinho missed that game as a result of injury. He is however now available and that in itself, has brought up the debate about whether Dembele remains in the starting line-up or goes back to the bench for today’s game.
The coach was smart in his answer to that question as he replied:
“We’ll see about that,” responded Valverde. “Ousmane has been playing regularly, so there’s no reason why that definitely will be the case.
“We hope that the goal against Atletico helped Dembele. A goal gives confidence to any player and I have the feeling Dembele will always try to do his best when he comes out.
“Dembele is a player who has been playing regularly, from the bench or the start, and he has quality.
“When he comes off the bench he can change a game and that’s a quality that is undervalued in football. Not everybody has that quality.”
As it stands presently, Barcelona is having to deal with a lengthy list of injuries this season, with Luis Suarez (knee), Rafinha (knee) and Sergi Roberto (hamstring) the latest players to head to the treatment room.
Naturally, coach Valverde has blamed the situation on having so many players called away on international duty in the early part of the competition.
According to the coach:
“It’s not that we don’t want the players to go away with the national team, but it is something that we have to pay a price for and, in this case, several players’ injuries have coincided at the same time,” he added.
“Throughout the season there are casualties of all kinds, as we have played the last two games of the Champions League without Lionel Messi.
“In the previous match we were cautious with Coutinho, but think that he can play this time. We will see how Ivan [Rakitic] trains, but we are optimistic.”