Gerard Piqué returns to league action following his four-match suspension as Barça take on Celta de Vigo at Balaidos tomorrow night (Wednesday 8.00 pm). Without Piqué, the defending champions have begun La Liga 2015/16 with four straight victories and Luis Enriqué will be looking to extend the 100% record in order to maintain the early advantage over closest rivals Real Madrid who also play tomorrow at Athletic Club at San Mames.
Sandro misses the trip with a minor injury so Gerard Gumbau continues with the first team squad after making his league debut in the 4-1 win over Levante on Sunday. Andrés Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Luis Suárez wrre all rested at the weekend and along with Piqué they should all return to the starting XI which, in theory, could see the first repeat of the line-up of Ter Stegen, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Suárez and Neymar that last lined up together for the Champions League Final against Juventus in June. The most likely variant would be a place for Sergi Roberto who also sat out against Levante. The youngster might get another chance at right-back in place of Dani Alves or he could be used in midfield to give a rest to either Sergio Busquets or Ivan Rakitic. Jeremy Mathieu, who scored the winner in last season’s corresponding fixture, is another option if Luis Enrique wants to reserve Mascherano.
Opponents Celta have begun the season strongly with three victories over Levante (1-2), Rayo (3-0) and Sevilla (1-2) and just one draw (3-3 at home to Las Palmas) to spoil the record. Four ex-blaugranas, who all played under Luis Enrique at Barça B, Nolito, Andreu Fontas, Sergi Gomez and Carles Planas, are currently playing at the Galician club. Nolito will no doubt be the player to watch, given Barça’s possible interest in signing him. The striker has got off to an excellent start to the season, firing in four of Celta’s ten goals in the four games played.
Finally, Rafinha successfully underwent his knee operation this morning. His recovery period is estimated at six months.
Celta: Sergio Álvarez; Hugo Mallo, Sergi Gomez, Fontás, Jonny; Augusto Fernandez, Wass; Orellana, Pablo Hernández, Nolito; Aspas.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Sergi Roberto, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar.
Prediction: Celta 1 Barça 3
Date: Wednesday 23 September 2015. Kick-off: 8.00 pm local time