Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman is without key center-backs Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo for Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes.
Both players are out through injury and are not included in the Dutchman’s 22-man squad for the trip to France. The Catalan giants go into the match 4-1 down after the first leg.
Koeman’s only fit center-backs are Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet, and Samuel Umtiti. The Dutchman has switched to a 3-5-2 formation in recent games, which has delivered wins against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey and La Liga and Osasuna, but it remains to be seen if he’ll stick with the system against PSG.
Pique only returned from a three-month lay-off in February but picked up a fresh knee injury in the Copa del Rey comeback win over Sevilla. Araujo continues to struggle with an ankle problem but is close to a return and trained on Tuesday morning.
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Koeman Offers Araujo Update
The absence of Pique and Araujo is a further blow to Barca’s already slim hopes of pulling off a comeback and progressing. Araujo is the quickest of Barca’s center-backs and would have been a useful option up against PSG star Kylian Mbappe.
Araujo was injured on his comeback from a sprained ankle in the league win over Sevilla, and Koeman told a pre-match press conference the Uruguayan could be in contention for Barca’s next match against Huesca in La Liga on Monday.
“We’ve spoken, we talked to Ronald in the last training sessions and I think maybe we did force his comeback too soon and we don’t want to make the same mistake again,” he said. “We want him to train with the team and if all goes well he might be available for Monday.”
Koeman was also asked if he would stick with the 3-5-2 formation but gave little away. He replied, “I have a starting XI in my mind. We’ve spoken about it, analyzed the first match, talked with the players. We’ll have a final talk tomorrow but I think with these players we can play any system.”
Neymar & Kean Missing for PSG
PSG also has injury problems ahead of the match. Former Barcelona star Neymar missed the first leg with an adductor injury and will also sit out the return despite returning to training.
The club confirmed the news in a medical update on the PSG website. Moise Kean, who scored PSG’s fourth goal in the first leg, is also out as he continues to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19.
Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong spoke about Neymar’s absence at the pre-match press conference and admitted his absence would benefit Barcelona.
“For me, Neymar is one of the best players in the world so when he’s not available to play, then for us it’s a little bit better. I don’t know exactly how to describe it but when he’s not there but it’s a bit easier.”
The winners of Wednesday’s tie will progress to the quarter-finals of the competition with the draw set to take place on Friday March 19, 2021.