Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman had mixed news on the fitness of defenders Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain.
Pique is bidding to make his first appearance for Barca since November after recovering from a knee injury, and Koeman told a pre-match press conference the 34-year-old has a chance of playing.
Gerard’s looking good. He’s been training with us for 4-5 days and the feeling is good regarding how his physical level is but I still have one more day to decide. He’s been out for a long time, we’ll talk and we’ll decide tomorrow.
However, there was bad news regarding Araujo who is out with a sprained ankle. The Uruguay international did not train on Monday and Koeman said he did not think the youngster would be back in time.
Pique’s return to fitness means Koeman has a big decision over who to play in central defense against PSG. The Dutch coach also has Clement Lenglet, Samuel Umtiti, and 21-year-old Oscar Mingueza fit and available for the match.
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Koeman Talks Barca’s Defensive Options
There’s no doubt the Barca defense faces a stern test against PSG and star striker Kylian Mbappe. The Catalan giants have been guilty of some poor errors this season that have proved costly.
Indeed Barca head into the match without a clean sheet in their last six matches, but Koeman will be keen for his team to shut PSG out and deny the French champions a precious away goal at the Camp Nou.
Koeman gave few clues away as to which defenders could start the match but insists he had full confidence in all of his squad.
Any of our defenders that are fit we can put in the team. I think they’ve had good games, there’s been some individual errors but that’s part of football. I have no doubts about our players who know how to defend against a strong team such as Paris. It will be a very tactical game, we know how to dominate and defensively know how to stop their individual stars. Of course, it will come down to details and we’ll see who I decide to play in central defense.
Pique is Barca’s most experienced center-back and his return will be a boost. Yet throwing him straight into the starting XI after three months out of action would represent something of a gamble for Koeman.
Barca ‘Can Beat Anyone’
Yet there’s no doubt Koeman is in confident mood and his team have real momentum after an emphatic 5-1 win over Alaves in La Liga on Saturday that made it 12 games unbeaten in La Liga.
The Catalan giants face a tougher test against last season’s Champions League finalists, but the Barca boss thinks they have the quality to prevail.
I don’t see other teams better than Barcelona right now. But it’s not good to expect to win the Champions League when we have made a lot of changes this season. The team is at a high level and we can beat anyone.
Both teams have been hit by injuries to key players ahead of the first leg. Barca’s lengthy injury list means Araujo joins Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho, and Sergi Roberto in the sidelines.
Yet PSG have made the trip to the Camp Nou without key attackers Neymar and Angel Di Maria. Midfielder Marco Verratti was also a doubt for the game but has been included in the traveling squad.