Valverde's Champions League rotation for Tottenham Hotspur
Already qualified Barça could be set to give a number of key players a rest, handing the north London club a boost for their own progression.
"You can tell your Inter friends to relax. We will head out on Tuesday with the best team for the interests of Barça, and to beat Tottenham." These were the words of Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde answering a question put to him by a journalist suggesting possible changes for the final Champions League group game.
Key players to sit out Spurs end
Inter Milan need to get a better result against PSV than Spurs do at the Camp Nou, however, the needs of others will not condition Valverde's choice of personnel, especially as he knows there are players in need of a rest. Piqué, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Vidal and Suarez, have featured heavily so far this season and some, like the Uruguayan striker, have had injuries to deal with. This is likely to mean some key players either being left out completely or given a bit part of the match. First choice number one, Ter Stegen, may also be replaced by Cillessen, giving him his Champions League debut as a reward for his professionalism. With Barça's work already done, why would he take unnecessary risks that could come back and bite him.
It's almost guaranteed that Brazilian pair Arthur and Coutinho will return to a starting eleven in which we may see some fringe players get more minutes under their belt. Aleñá, Miranda, Oriol Busquets and Munir all featured in the Copa del Rey match last week and could again be involved. Likewise Denis Suárez could line up against Pochettino's men, while the exciting talent of Riqui Puig may appear at some point to taste some big-time football.
Inter not getting Barça favours
A possible starting team to face Tottenham could be: Cillessen; Semedo, Vermaelen, Lenglet, Miranda; Oriol Busquets, Aleñá, Arthur, Coutinho, Messi and Dembélé. Certainly not weak, but also a number of players short of the strongest Barça. And there are also reasonable doubts about some of those names predicted: Semedo, for example, could do with a break and may also be left out, while Valverde will also be planning his substitutes with a mind less on immediate tactics, and more on the upcoming LaLiga challenges. There's a talisman in that line-up too that Valverde will not want to pick up a knock.
The lesson learned from last season is still fresh in the Barça dressing room. Reaching the business stage of the season in the best condition is important if a serious tilt at lifting the Champions League is to occur. If that means risking defeat to Tottenham, it is a fair price to pay because they have done the hard work early on in the group. It's not, however, something that Inter will be pleased to hear.