Barcelona will face their final Liga match before the Club World Cup against Deportivo with concerns over the fitness of star duo Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Neymar, who has been nominated alongside Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the final three contenders for the Ballon d’Or for the first time in his career, picked up a groin injury in training this week and was forced to miss the 1-1 Champions League draw with Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.
Messi, meanwhile, also sat out a recovery training session on Thursday, though the club cited “personal reasons” for his absence rather the hamstring problem it was feared he had suffered in Germany.
Both forwards are now in doubt for the clash with Deportivo at Camp Nou on Saturday and Barca will be anxious over their availability for the Club World Cup, with the European champions heading to Tokyo in the coming days.
With Neymar injured and question marks raised over Messi following that tough encounter in Germany on Wednesday, Deportivo full-back Luisinho believes they have a strong chance of extending their unbeaten run to six matches.
“It’s a pretty difficult game. We have the hope of taking something and the moment is good, because the team are going through a good moment. That’s ideal to play against Barcelona,” he said.
Ivan Rakitic, however, feels the difficult 1-1 draw with Leverkusen could serve Barca well for the coming challenges as they look to end 2015 on top of the Liga table and as the newly-crowned world champions.
“It’s always good to have a hard time. It’s good for what’s still to come this season,” he told BeIn Sports.
“They [Leverkusen] played very aggressively and we have to congratulate them. They started strong and that can help us.”
Barca coach Luis Enrique handed starts to youngsters Sergi Samper and Wilfrid Kaptoum against Leverkusen as a handful of first-team stars were afforded rests, meaning the line-up on Saturday should remain strong even if Messi and Neymar are unavailable.
Dani Alves is back after being banned for the Leverkusen game, while Sergi Roberto (ankle) and Jeremy Mathieu (thigh) could return to the matchday squad. Douglas (foot) and Rafinha (knee) are Barca’s only other long-term absentees.
Pedro Mosquera is banned for the visitors, who are likely to be without Oriol Riera (hamstring) and Celso Borges (foot), after both could only train separately from the main group on Wednesday. Federico Cartabia is also struggling for full fitness, while Luis Alberto (groin) and Fabri (knee) are out.
Key Opta Stats:
– Barcelona have won every home league game they have played this season (W7).
– The last side to stop Barcelona winning at the Camp Nou in La Liga was Deportivo in the last game last season (2-2).
– The last two Galician sides to have played at Camp Nou in La Liga secured points: Celta de Vigo won on MD10 in 2014-15 (0-1) and Deportivo drew on MD38 that season (2-2).
– The Riazor side have lost just one game away from home in La Liga this season (W3 D3), their best such record at this point since 2005-06.
– Deportivo are, alongside Atletico Madrid, the only Liga side yet to have been shown a red card this season.
– Luis Suarez and Neymar (eight apiece) have scored 16 out of the last 17 Barca goals at Camp Nou in La Liga.
– Messi has scored in his last five league appearances against Deportivo (10 goals).
– Lucas Perez has scored eight of the last 12 Deportivo goals in La Liga.
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