Barcelona duo Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo are battling to prove their fitness ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain at the Camp Nou.
The two center-backs both trained on Sunday with the rest of their team-mates ahead of the tie, according to Diario Sport. Pique has been out since November with a knee injury but could return ahead of schedule.
Araujo may also be in contention to face the French champions. The report states he could be used as an “emergency measure” and will be tested again in training on Monday to see if he is fit enough to play.
Currently, there is no guarantee either player will make the starting XI, and if both players miss out then Ronald Koeman will have to choose two centrer-backs from Samuel Umtiti, Clement Lenglet, and Oscar Mingueza.
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Pique ‘Feeling Good’
Pique has targeted a full training return on February 14 for some time, according to Javi Miguel at AS. The center-back “completed the 75 minutes of work without problems, his knee remained stable at all times and his sensations were unbeatable.”
The 34-year-old now has “two more training sessions to convince Ronald Koeman” he can feature against PSG, although Barca remain “very cautious” about his return because he has been out for such a long time.
Indeed the club think it would be a “relatively high risk to play a highly demanding game” on the back of just three training sessions. Pique is said to disagree and is willing to take on the challenge and start the game.
Araujo Wants To Prove Himself
Miguel reports that Araujo will also test his fitness on Monday in what looks like being a key session ahead of the match. The Uruguay international was initially expected to miss three weeks after suffering an ankle sprain last Sunday against Real Betis.
The 21-year-old “wants to prove himself” in training and has not yet given up hope of featuring in the match against the French champions. Manager Ronald Koeman is expected to wait until after Tuesday morning’s session to name his squad for the crunch game.
Moises Llorens at ESPN reports Araujo has “minor ankle discomfort” but is “really looking forward” to playing against Kylian Mbappe and Co. The Uruguayan has impressed this season while filling in for Pique.
Defense will be a key issue for Koeman ahead of the tie. Barca head into the match on a run of 12 games unbeaten in La Liga but have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last six matches.
PSG will be without key attackers such as Neymar and Angel Di Maria for the first leg due to injury but still have plenty of attacking power. Mbappe is the French league’s top scorer with 16 goals, while Moise Kean has 10, and Mauro Icardi has five.