Chance for Digne as Alba ruled out of Barcelona’s clash with Olympiacos

The full-back picked up an injury in training

Jordi Alba has been ruled out of Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Olympiacos on Wednesday night, which should hand Lucas Digne a rare chance to impress.

The full-back has been left out of the squad after “pulling an adductor muscle in his thigh” during a training session on Tuesday, according to Barcelona’s official website.

It’s not known just yet how long he will be out for, but he will definitely play no part at the Camp Nou, and you would expect Digne to fill in.

Digne has barely featured this season making just two appearances, and only one as a starter, but unless Ernesto Valverdo goes for a back three, he should start.

With bottom of the table Malaga the visitors to Camp Nou at the weekend, and a Copa del Rey game against Murcia next week, a strong showing could allow Digne a little run in the first-team.

Valverde talks Olympiacos, Umtiti, Jose Arnaiz and resting Barcelona players

The boss has faced the press once again

Barcelona face Olympiacos in the Champions League on Wednesday night and ahead of the game Ernesto Valverde has faced the press.

The Barca boss was asked about facing one of his former sides, whether his players were tired and a whole host of other questions.

Here are the best bits…

Valverde on Olympiacos

“For me, it’s an emotional game. I am still close to a lot of people who are involved with Olympiacos. They’ve changed the team a lot but their style has not changed, they are accustomed to winning and that’s what I like. They’ve won titles and I still know a lot of people there and they showed me a lot of love.

“I thought they were aggressive against Juventus. We expect them to make things difficult for us. They won a very important league game last weekend but I’ll say it again, the Champions League is a competition in which Olympiacos have always played well because this is what they live for, to enjoy these moments and I think it’s going to be a difficult match.”

Valverde on resting players

“It’s an important match tomorrow, but we also have to face Malaga after that. I am going to put the best players I can for this game and it’s true the other day the players said after the game that they were a little tired, after a couple of tough weeks but we’ve now had four days off, four days without a game.”

Valverde on Samuel Umtiti

“He’s a fundamental player for us. We are very happy with him, he’s agressive, brings the ball out, is good in the air. He is still a young player and can give us more and that’s what we expect from him.”

Valverde on Andre Gomes and Gerard Deulofeu

“We have several options I think. I’ve tried Andre [Gomes] he’s a strong player, very good, I think offensively he projects very well. He plays with good strategy and of course there are other players too, Deulofeu who, when he comes in, can be the difference maker, so there are different options and I have to manage them according to how the game is going.

Valverde on Jose Arnaiz

“He arrived in the B team this year, he’s young, he’s fast, he’s a difference maker, he can score. I think he has a big season ahead of him, we’ve seen him, he’s been outstanding so far, so who knows? It’s a possibility, but I’m trying to focus on the team I have right now and we’ll see if someone else can be part of this team. You’re always looking to see if there’s a player in the reserves who can make the jump.”

Valverde on Paulinho

“I’ve said he’s a different player compared to what we have. He’s a midfielder but he thinks a lot about going towards the goal. The others think about controlling the ball in the midfield. He is also a player who, when he comes in fresh, brings different things and I think we can use that to our advantage.”

FC Barcelona News: 17 October 2017; Sevilla Game Kickoff Announced, Rafinha Committed to Barcelona

Preparation for the Champions League match against Olympiacos begins | FC Barcelona
Given a day off after the match at the Wanda Metropolitano (1-1), FC Barcelona players returned to work at the Ciutat Esportiva on Monday morning in preparation for Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Olympiacos, the third game of the group stage.

Can Andre Gomes be the solution to Barcelona’s ‘one-position’ problem? | Sky Sports
Dembele is facing another three months out with a hamstring injury suffered on his first league start in September since his summer move from Borrusia Dortmund. Barca have tried several players in his absence, including Gomes in a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

FC Barcelona v Sevilla kick off time announced | FC Barcelona
The Spanish Football League (LFP) have announced the kick-times for week 11’s fixtures in La Liga. FC Barcelona take on Eduardo Berizzo’s Sevilla side at Camp Nou on Saturday 4 November at 8.45pm CET. The round of domestic games begins on Friday 3 November at 9.00pm CET with Getafe’s visit to Betis and ends on Sunday 5 November with Real Madrid taking on Las Palmas at 8.45pm CET in the Santiago Bernabéu.

Ernesto Valverde’s new ideas are improving Barcelona – ter Stegen | ESPN
Barcelona are getting better and better because of the new approaches brought to the club by coach Ernesto Valverde, goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen says.

Barcelona mark 13th anniversary of Lionel Messi debut with beautiful video | ESPN
Barca have created a fantastic compilation that features a fresh-faced teenage Messi twisting, turning, dribbling and scoring goal after goal after goal for the youth team — a handy knack he has continued to demonstrate right up to the present day.

La Liga rights holders want Barcelona to stay regardless of Catalan vote | FC Barcelona
With recent events having seriously focused minds on the possibility of Catalonia breaking away from Spain, the issue of where Catalan teams, including Barca’s fellow Primera Division peers Espanyol and Girona, would then play their football has been hotly debated.

This is what happened when Ernesto Valverde was given a Greek pop quiz | FC Barcelona
With FC Barcelona getting ready for its third UEFA Champions League match of the season, the team’s manager, Ernesto Valverde, was put to the test to try and match pictures of the Barça players with their names, written in Greek! Why Greek, you might ask? Well, it turns out that Valverde, who is in his first season at Barça, previously coached Greek Superleague power Olympiacos, where he had two stints over the last several years.

Father: Rafinha committed to Barca | Football Espana
Rafinha has been out since April with a knee injury and had been linked with a move away over the summer, amidst talk that he did not fit into the plans of Barca boss Ernesto Valverde, but Mazinho made it clear his son was on the mend and not looking to leave Camp Nou.

Madrid, Barca track Bentancur | Football Espana
Real Madrid and Barcelona are both keen on Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, according to reports. The Uruguayan midfielder has made eight appearances for the Old Lady this season after joining the squad this summer from Boca Juniors in a deal worth in the region of €9.5m.

Rumors: Koulibaly wanted, Coutinho alternatives named, and Barcelona to rival Man City for Julian Weigl

The club seem to have a big old shopping list

Barcelona eyeing Kalidou Koulibaly

Today’s rumors start with Mundo Deportivo who report that Barcelona are keen on Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

The Blaugrana apparently watched Koulibaly in action during Napoli’s 1-0 win over Roma, but there is small problem, namely that he may cost around €60 million.

There was also interest in the defender from Chelsea and Juventus last summer, but Napoli may be more open to selling next year.

Julian Brandt or Max Meyer instead of Coutinho

Over at Sport, the talk is of who Barcelona could go for if they fail to land Philippe Coutinho, and two names are mentioned – Julian Brandt and Max Meyer.

Robert Fernandez and Urbano Ortega have been to Germany on scouting missions, although Brandt may be hard to land as Bayern Munich are interested.

Meyer is also an option, particularly as his contract expires next summer, although this being Sport, they are still hoping Coutinho will arrive in January.

Paco Alcacer to Lille or Celta Vigo?

Sport also have updates on Paco Alcacer’s future and cite a report from Onda Cero radio statio, that claimed he could be heading to Celta to link up with Juan Carlos Unzue.

Meanwhile, Sport have also been checking out reports in France, who reckon Lille have enquired about Paco, and will offer an initial loan with an option to buy.

Barcelona & Man City want Weigl

Over at AS, the story is that Barcelona and Manchester City both want Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Weigl.

Apparently he is viewed as the ‘new Sergio Busquets’ although it’s worth noting he only signed a new deal back in December that runs until 2021.

Marcos Alonso to replace Sergi Roberto?

And finally we end with the always entertaining Don Balon, who reckon that Marcos Alonso is Ernesto Valverde’s top choice to replace Sergi Roberto.

Apparently they are other options namely, Alex Sandro, Gaya, Raphaël Guerreiro and Marc Cucurella but Alonso tops the list. Maybe it’s his lovely hair.

How should Barcelona line up against Olympiacos?

Will Valverde go with his 4-4-2 again?

Barcelona continue their Champions League campaign with a matchup against Olympiacos. The Greek side is last in Group D having failed to grab a point in either of their first two games. They’ll need to step up their play should they wish to grab anything positive from playing Barcelona.

Let’s look at how Barcelona could line up on Wednesday:

Barcelona v Espanyol - La Liga
Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Defence

The goal will be guarded as usual by the always reliable Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

In front of the German we should see the core four that Valverde seems to feel comfortable with. Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba will likely be filling in the full-back positions with Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti taking the center-back spots.

Midfield

In the midfield we may get to see the four man formation once again. With Andrés Iniesta, Andre Gomes, Ivan Rakitić, and Sergio Busquets. Should Valverde wish to throw out a 4-3-3, Gomes is likely to drop for Gerard Deulofeu.

Attack

Whatever formation Barcelona choose on Wednesday, the main two attacking pieces will be Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Sporting CP v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League
Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic, Gomes; Messi, Suarez.

Who do you think should start against Olympiacos? Let us know your thoughts and line-ups in the comments below!

WATCH: Lionel Messi during his La Masia days

Gorgeous from Messi

When you have something incredible in your life, it’s nice to take a look back and enjoy that thing at its initial, pure first stages. For Barcelona and Lionel Messi fans, those initial first stages were during Messi’s time at Barcelona’s academy, La Masia.

So in celebration of Messi’s 13 year anniversary, let’s take a few moments to watch some of his top skills in a video put together by Barcelona themselves.

The video was comprised of some of the best that Messi has to offer on the football pitch. Dribbling through defenses like a hot knife through butter, scoring beautiful chipped goals over the keeper’s head, and amazing hair.

Lionel Messi is a treat to the footballing world. This video is a great reminder of the simplistic nature that football can have at young ages, and all that can develop from when a young Argentine comes to Barcelona’s youth academy.

Atlético Madrid 1-1 Barcelona, 2017 La Liga: Player Ratings

Marc-André ter Stegen

As Barça pushed for the equaliser, chances for Atlético to hurt on the counter were coming and it was down to ter Stegen to produce some excellent saves and keep the score down to one. Not a lot he could have done for Saul’s goal as it was a precise finish.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Nélson Semedo

Semedo was almost exclusively responsible for the width on the right side as Gomes looked to cut in and play centrally more. He did well here to be fair but was unable to create any major chances. Sacrificed in the 61st minute for Sergi Roberto.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Gerard Piqué

Looked a little sluggish at times in particular for Atlético’s goal. It may be overly harsh but you do wonder if he could have gotten out quicker to close the shot down before it left Saul’s foot.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: 6

Samuel Umtiti

The strongest of Barcelona’s defenders, his pace was needed to keep up with Antoine Griezmann and he just about did this. Four tackles and an interception helped Barcelona contain Atlético.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Jordi Alba

Was good at making interceptions and giving the ball back to Barça, could have done more offensively.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Sergio Busquets

Controlled the midfield really well and marshalled Atlético’s central men. Also kept on an eye on the pace of Griezmann and his ability to go in behind. This explains with the Frenchman favoured dropping deep and receiving the ball.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Ivan Rakitić

Seemed unsure of playing wide left and was ineffective in this area.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: 6

Andre Gomes

Saw plenty of the ball but struggled to do anything with it. Didn’t look too sure player wide right in a four man midfield and more often then not he was tempted to drift in.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: 6

Andrés Iniesta

Solid performance from Iniesta in which he kept Barça ticking over more than anything. Attempted a few dribbles to get at the Atlético defence but they didn’t quite come off. Left the field on the hour mark.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Lionel Messi

Once again, Barcelona’s most creative player. The two banks of four from Atlético meant Messi had to drop deep to see the ball but once he did, he more often than not did something with it. Attempted a few close control dribbles in the hope of getting through the home side’s defence. Twice unlucky not two score as he hit the post and bar.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 7

Luis Suárez

A dogged performance from Suárez which consisted of hard work and he was eventually rewarded. Seemingly heading towrards another goalless game this season, he drifted to the back post and planted a great header into the goal to rescue the point for Barça.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Sergi Roberto

Did excellently in his 30 minute cameo. Drifting away from the supposed right back position he was playing, Roberto was very high and it was his perfectly placed cross that allowed Suárez to score.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Gerard Deulofeu

Provided a more attacking threat when introduced.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Paulinho

Only played ten minutes.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: N/A

Ernesto Valverde

Did well again with his substitutions as the introduction of Deulofeu and Sergi Roberto changed the game.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: 7

The team

Another poor first half performance as improved upon in the second half. The draw was the fair result.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Man of the match

Your say: ter Stegen (31.8%)

Sam’s says: Messi

Atlético de Madrid 1-1 F.C Barcelona: Player Ratings: 17/18 La Liga

Marc-André ter Stegen

As Barça pushed for the equaliser, chances for Atlético to hurt on the counter were coming and it was down to ter Stegen to produce some excellent saves and keep the score down to one. Not a lot he could have done for Saul’s goal as it was a precise finish.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Nélson Semedo

Semedo was almost exclusively responsible for the width on the right side as Gomes looked to cut in and play centrally more. He did well here to be fair but was unable to create any major chances. Sacrificed in the 61st minute for Sergi Roberto.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Gerard Piqué

Looked a little sluggish at times in particular for Atlético’s goal. It may be overly harsh but you do wonder if he could have gotten out quicker to close the shot down before it left Saul’s foot.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: 6

Samuel Umtiti

The strongest of Barcelona’s defenders, his pace was needed to keep up with Antoine Griezmann and he just about did this. Four tackles and an interception helped Barcelona contain Atlético.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Jordi Alba

Was good at making interceptions and giving the ball back to Barça, could have done more offensively.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Sergio Busquets

Controlled the midfield really well and marshalled Atlético’s central men. Also kept on an eye on the pace of Griezmann and his ability to go in behind. This explains with the Frenchman favoured dropping deep and receiving the ball.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Ivan Rakitić

Seemed unsure of playing wide left and was ineffective in this area.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: 6

Andre Gomes

Saw plenty of the ball but struggled to do anything with it. Didn’t look too sure player wide right in a four man midfield and more often then not he was tempted to drift in.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: 6

Andrés Iniesta

Solid performance from Iniesta in which he kept Barça ticking over more than anything. Attempted a few dribbles to get at the Atlético defence but they didn’t quite come off. Left the field on the hour mark.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Lionel Messi

Once again, Barcelona’s most creative player. The two banks of four from Atlético meant Messi had to drop deep to see the ball but once he did, he more often than not did something with it. Attempted a few close control dribbles in the hope of getting through the home side’s defence. Twice unlucky not two score as he hit the post and bar.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 7

Luis Suárez

A dogged performance from Suárez which consisted of hard work and he was eventually rewarded. Seemingly heading towrards another goalless game this season, he drifted to the back post and planted a great header into the goal to rescue the point for Barça.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Sergi Roberto

Did excellently in his 30 minute cameo. Drifting away from the supposed right back position he was playing, Roberto was very high and it was his perfectly placed cross that allowed Suárez to score.

Your rating: 8

Sam’s rating: 8

Gerard Deulofeu

Provided a more attacking threat when introduced.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Paulinho

Only played ten minutes.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: N/A

Ernesto Valverde

Did well again with his substitutions as the introduction of Deulofeu and Sergi Roberto changed the game.

Your rating: 6

Sam’s rating: 7

The team

Another poor first half performance as improved upon in the second half. The draw was the fair result.

Your rating: 7

Sam’s rating: 7

Man of the match

Your say: ter Stegen (31.8%)

Sam’s says: Messi

FC Barcelona News: 16 October 2017; Preparations Begin for Olympiacos, Champions League

Training schedule for the visits of Olympiacos and Málaga | FC Barcelona
After visiting Atlético Madrid on Saturday, FC Barcelona now go into a week featuring two games at the Camp Nou. On Wednesday the guests are Olympiacos in the Champions League and on Saturday Malaga are the opposition in the league. There are training sessions every single day – and not one day of rest. So hold on tight for a lively week, here are the key times (all Central European Time).

Preparation for the Champions League match against Olympiacos begins | FC Barcelona
Given a day off after the match at the Wanda Metropolitano (1-1), FC Barcelona players returned to work at the Ciutat Esportiva on Monday morning in preparation for Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Olympiacos, the third game of the group stage.

The names of the first team, in Greek | FC Barcelona
Coinciding with the game between FC Barcelona and Olympiacos, we are going to take some Greek football lessons. Can you guess which name relates to each word?

RIVAL WATCH: Olympiacos leave it late to win thriller | FC Barcelona
The Greek side Olympiacos are FC Barcelona’s next rivals in the Champions League and they warmed up for Wednesday’s match with a 4-3 win over Panionios. Olympiakos started the game behind their rivals and they leapfrogged them to move into fifth place in the Greek Superleague on 11 points, four behind PAOK.

Barcelona’s Ernesto Valverde: Lionel Messi tired, but he always responds | ESPN
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has said Lionel Messi was suffering from “wear and tear” in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid.Messi had a late chance to win the match, which brought an end to Barca’s perfect Liga record, but fired a free kick straight at home goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

BY THE NUMBERS: Barça at the Wanda Metropolitano | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona’s draw on their first visit to the new Atlético Madrid stadium left us with some interesting stats.

Barça, the leader in the top divisions of all sports | FC Barcelona
The men’s and women’s football teams, basketball, handball, futsal and roller hockey top the rankings in their respective leagues.

Perfect time for Valverde to make changes at Barcelona

Rotation could be on the cards with a busy week ahead

Barcelona head into a busy run of fixtures with Olympiakos at Camp Nou on Wednesday in the Champions League, before Malaga visit on Saturday and then the club head to Murcia in the Copa del Rey the following Tuesday.

On paper at least, these are some of the kinder fixtures Barcelona will face, and as such it’s the perfect opportunity for Ernesto Valverde to hand some players a rare start.

The Barca coach admitted after the draw against Atletico Madrid that Lionel Messi was “tired” after his international exploits, and while he will be expected to feature on Wednesday, Saturday’s home game against bottom side Malaga and the Copa del Rey might be the perfect time to give the Argentine a breather.

Atletico Madrid v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

There are also plenty of players pushing for a start, but perhaps top of the list is Denis Suarez, who suprisingly did not even get a look in against Atletico.

The 23-year-old has two goals and two assists in six La Liga appearances this season (only two of which have been starts) and has looked bright whenever he’s appeared.

He’s not alone too, Sergi Roberto came on and made the difference against Atletico on Saturday, crossing for Luis Suarez to equalise, and must surely be a contender for a midfield position.

Paulinho must also surely be in Valverde’s thoughts, and it’s testament to him how quickly he has changed opinion, after his signing was widely derided over the summer.

The Brazilian adds bite and drive to the midfield and, like Suarez, already has two goals in just three starts for Barca.

There’s also the small matter of Gerard Deulofeu, who looked set to be a regular at the start of the season, but seems to have lost his way.

A brief cameo against Atletico may have helped change Valverde’s mind, and he would inject some pace and width that was largely lacking at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

These games also offer the chance for Andres Iniesta to have a rest and for Ivan Rakitic to be taken out of the firing line, after struggling at the weekend.

With Barcelona over-reliant on Messi for goals, Valverde needs to find the creativity and spark that his side have struggled to produce this season and these fixtures offer the chance for players to state their case.

Who would you like to see given a chance in the next few games? Let us know your thoughts, starting line-ups and predictions in the comments below!