Starlet Riqui Puig is pushing for a place in the Barcelona starting XI and has been told exactly what he needs to do to become a regular at the Camp Nou by manager Quique Setien.
The Barcelona coach was asked about the 20-year-old in his pre-match press conference on Friday and spoke at length about the improvements the youngster has made and what he needs to do next to continue his development.
“I think Riqui has made important progress in the time we’ve spent with him. His attitude has been excellent but there have been things we’ve had to indicate to him so he gets more comfortable with the team’s needs and what he can offer us.
“There was a time where there was thinking he had to adapt to. But we’ve seen recently that’s he performed in the minutes we’ve give him and in the training sessions too. We’ve seen the attitude and commitment we’ve asked from him and that’s the way forward.
“We need him to keep this level of performance up and offer this version of himself permanently because this is the way he will have more chances of playing. You have to bear in mind we are at Barca and the best players are here.”
The 20-year-old has made five appearances this season but all have come off the bench. He is in with a strong chance of starting Saturday’s match at Celta Vigo as Sergio Busquets is suspended and Frenkie de Jong out injured.
Setien Hints Puig Will Play at Celta
Setien was also asked about the possibility of Puig starting the game at Balaidos. The coach was giving little away about his starting XI but did concede this might be an ideal opportunity for the youngster.
“It could be a good moment. The reality is that he’s going to have more of a chance with the absence of several important players. That opens up more possibilities. He also had opportunities before with everyone available but we considered it wasn’t the time. These are all circumstances you have to analyze based on how you see these players from the academy performing and understanding what they can do in specific games.”
Setien also has Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal, and Arthur available for the match but could hand Puig a start after an impressive cameo in midweek.
The youngster replaced Arthur in the 1-0 win over Athletic at the Camp Nou and helped change the game with his energy and passing. Rakitic went on to score the only goal of the game in a crucial win for the hosts.
Barca Face Another Tough Test
Barca faces another tough test on Saturday against a team that will come into the match fresh from wins over Real Sociedad and Alaves. Striker Iago Aspas has two goals in his last two La Liga games to take his tally to 11 for the season.
The visitors did beat Celta 4-1 back at the Camp Nou in the first half of the season but have not been convincing on their travels in 2019-20. Their five defeats have all come on the road which has hurt their hopes of retaining their La Liga title.
Setien’s men head into the match in second place in the table, level on points with leaders Real Madrid but behind due to an inferior head-to-head record, and know they simply can’t afford to drop more points on Saturday.