Barcelona: Ivan Rakitic rested with Liverpool semi-final in mind
The Barcelona squad completed their preparations for tonight's game against Alavés without Ivan Rakitic who Ernesto Valverde has given a rest.
Ernesto Valverde took his Barcelona squad through their final preparations for tonight's league meeting with Alavés at the Ciutat Esportiva on Sunday afternoon. There was one notable absentee for the session - Ivan Rakitic who the coach has given time off to recharge his batteries as Barça aim to wrap up LaLiga as soon as possible so that they can focus solely on next month's Champions League semi-final with Liverpool.
Valverde said on the eve on tonight's game that he will be rotating his side over the next two games - after Alavés, Barça are at home to Levante, away at Celta, home to Getafe and close the league season as guests of Eibar on 19 May. Mathematically, the Blaugranas could clinch the league on Saturday if they win the next two games, or sooner if Atlético lose at home to Valencia tomorrow night. "Any coach in a similar situation to us would tell you the same - we want to get the league out of the way as soon as we possibly can", Valverde said in Monday's press conference.
Rakitic takes a breather
It would enable Valverde to rest some of his key players before the semi-final first leg against Liverpool at Camp Nou on 1 May then ahead of the decider at Anfield on 7 May. Rakitic is one of the most-used players in the Barça squad this season. He's only missed two league games - he was suspended for the Week 13 meeting with Atleti and a high fever kept him out of the recent game against Huesca. In total he has racked up almost 2.500 minutes playing time over 48 games in all competitions. Only Marc-André ter Stegen, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Busquets and strike pair Leo Messi and Luis Suárez have featured more than the Croatian over the course of the campaign.
Carles Aleñá could line-up in midfield alongside Arturo Vidal and Sergio Busquets at Mendizorroza tonight.
Barça were handed another boost at the weekend as Thomas Vermaelen has been given a clean bill of health by the club's medical services.
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