Barça: Messi Valverde's Copa beacon as injuries mount
With Ousmane Dembélé, Philippe Coutinho, Arthur and Luis Suárez out of the final against Valencia, the Barça boss has some scheming to do.
Barcelona are one game away from securing the ninth domestic double in the club’s history but Ernesto Valverde will be hard pressed to put together a team for the Copa del Rey final after Philippe Coutinho added to his considerable injury list during the victory over Getafe on Sunday.
The Brazilian, who was roundly booed by his own fans throughout, limped out of the game with a hamstring injury and is expected to be out for up to 10 days, placing his participation in the final at Betis’ Villamarín stadium on 25 May.
Valverde will be without Luis Suárez in Andalusia while Ousmane Dembélé (muscle injury) and Arthur (hernia) are also serious doubts. Both may just scrape past late fitness tests but will hardly be at 100 percent for the final if they do.
That leaves Valverde with some serious tactical planning to do ahead of the game, where his attack may well consist of talismanic captain Leo Messi and whoever else is left standing.
Messi plus 10 against Valencia; Boateng to be ignored
One player who will almost certainly not be filling the void is January signing Kevin-Prince Boateng. The on-loan Sassuolo striker was brought in to provide Suárez with the occasional rest but failed to even make the bench for the Getafe game and will be at the bottom of Valverde’s list of potential stand-ins in the Villamarín.
Barça B forward Abel Ruiz got some game time against Getafe as a second half substitute and he will in all likelihood perform the same duty in the Copa final, but beyond the 19-year-old Barça’s options are fairly limited.
Valverde’s bench on Sunday consisted of Ruiz, keeper Marc-André ter Stegen, utility defender Nelson Semedo, centre half Clement Lenglet, little used January signing Jean-Clair Todibo, also a defender, and midfielders Riqui Puig (Barça B) and Carles Aleñá (31 senior appearances).
That will almost certainly persuade Valverde that Messi can be spared the final day trip to Eibar with both the Liga title and the Pichichi trophy in his star player’s back pocket.
As concerns the Copa final against Valencia, as things stand Valverde will have to improvise an XI and hope that Messi has a typical Messi afternoon at the office.
Potential Barça line-up for Copa final against Valencia:
Cillessen; Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Vidal, Rakitic; Messi, Sergo Roberto, Malcom.