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Barcelona: Rakitic dropped again as Dembele, Aleñá return

The Croatia midfielder has paid the price for Granada along with Carles Pérez with the Frenchman returning after a hamstring injury.

Barcelona: Rakitic dropped again as Dembele, Aleñá return
Aitor Alcalde Getty Images

Ernesto Valverde is under the microscope after Barça’s less-than stellar start to the season and the Camp Nou boss has shaken up his squad again for the visit of Villarreal on Tuesday with Ivan Rakitic paying the price of the defeat at Granada alongside Carles Pérez, who has also been dropped.

Coming into the Valverde’s squad is Ousmane Dembélé, whose return from a hamstring injury has been brought forward to address a lack of punch up front that has seen Barça fail to score in consecutive games in Europe and domestically. Against Granada, with Leo Messi and Ansu Fati joining the fray in the second half, Valverde’s side still only managed a single shot on goal over the 90 minutes in Los Cármenes.

Rakitic falling out of favour

Rakitic was hauled off just after the hour mark in Granada and was well off the pace, the Croatian having fallen out of favour with Valverde this season. Rakitic, so influential in recent successful seasons, has been restricted so far to a half in the loss at Athletic and a 20-minute cameo against Valencia with the game all-but won.

Carles Aleñá returns after several weeks out of the picture but Valverde will be without Jordi Alba and Samuel Umtiti, who are both injured, for the Villarreal game.

The match at Camp Nou on Tuesday could be the first time Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suárez and Messi start together and Valverde will hope home comforts arrest a run of results that have placed his job on the line. Away from home this season Barça have lost two and drawn two in LaLiga and the Champions League (a 0-0 stalemate at Borussia Dortmund) while at home they have put five past Betis and Valencia in consecutive 5-2 victories.

Barcelona squad for Villarreal:

Ter Stegen, Neto, Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Todibo, Junior, Sergi Roberto, Sergio Busquets, Aleñá, Arthur, De Jong, Vidal, Griezmann, Messi, Suárez, Dembélé and Ansu Fati.