It’s been a long time coming but Barcelona will finally return to La Liga action on Saturday night when they travel to the Balearic Islands to take on Mallorca.
Yes, it may be behind closed doors and yes, it may not be the most high-profile of curtain raisers, but it’ll come as welcome relief for a community of Barça fans starved of matches for months.
The lack of football hasn’t been all bad though. With the season put on hold, several Barcelona players have had a chance to recover from injury, leaving Quique Setien with a near enough fully fit squad to choose from. So…who’s kicking it all off?
Marc-André ter Stegen (GK) – 26 La Liga games, 26 La Liga starts for Ter Stegen. Don’t expect that 100% record to change on Saturday.
Sergi Roberto (RB) – This decision would have been a lot harder if Nelson Semedo wasn’t currently in self-isolation after breaching lockdown protocols. With Semedo in Setien’s bad books, Roberto could make the right-back spot his own over the next few weeks.
Gerard Piqué (CB) – His performances have been far from perfect this season, but Pique has only missed one La Liga game.
Clement Lenglet (CB) – With Samuel Umtiti suffering a calf injury on his second training session back after lockdown, Barça are likely to opt for his compatriot Lenglet at centre-back. The latter may have got the nod ahead of Umtiti anyway, though it is telling that he did not feature in El Clásico back in March.
Jordi Alba (LB) – The evergreen Alba has continued to impress at left-back this season whenever he’s been fit. The time off he’s enjoyed over lockdown has hopefully helped him fully recover from the niggling injuries that have plagued him over the last year.
Sergio Busquets (DM) – Another Barcelona legend, Busquets is still running the show from defensive midfield. The Spaniard has only missed three league games this season, and will start on Saturday.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – De Jong has been a pleasure to watch this season, excelling in a range of midfield roles. He is also one of only three Barça players to feature in every league fixture this campaign.
Arturo Vidal (CM) – Vidal has been an unsung hero this season – and it’s been a similar story for the majority of his career. The Chilean has popped up with several important goals which, combined with his relentless work rate, make him a likely starter this weekend.
Lionel Messi (RW) – There was a collective, sharp intake of breath when news broke of Messi’s injury last month. Luckily for everyone, Setien has since confirmed that La Pulga is fit and raring to go ahead of Saturday’s game. Thank goodness.
Luis Suarez (ST) – He’s back, and better than ever. That’s right, Suarez has fully recovered from his knee operation after several months out and he will be looking to make up for lost time by banging in as many goals as possible.
Ansu Fati (LW) – You expected to see Antoine Griezmann here, didn’t you? Call it a little intuition, a feeling in the waters, but Fati might just edge ahead in the pecking order. Or, y’know, maybe not. Griezmann did cost €100m last summer.