Jordi Alba has handed Barcelona a fitness boost ahead of Saturday’s La Liga clash with Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. The left-back returned to training on Thursday after being sidelined with a hamstring injury.
The 31-year-old has not featured since hobbling off in Barcelona’s 1-1 draw with Sevilla, missing the games against Getafe in La Liga and Ferencvaros in the Champions League.
New signing Sergino Dest has filled in for Alba during his absence and has made a strong start to his Barcelona career. The 19-year-old’s preferred position is on the right side of the defense, but he has already shown he’s comfortable on the opposite flank.
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Will Alba Play?
Alba could now make his return to action against Real Madrid, although there will be a discussion between “the player, Ronald Koeman and the club’s medical staff” as to whether he should feature, according to Marca’s Luis F. Rojo.
The final decision seems set to be made by manager Koeman after the team’s final training session before El Clasico on Friday. Yet the Dutchman won’t want to take any risks, particularly with a crunch Champions League clash against Juventus scheduled for Wednesday.
According to Juan Jimenez at AS, Alba felt good in Thursday’s session, but he’s more likely to appear as a second-half substitute against Real Madrid rather than a starter.
The report also notes how Alba’s injury history suggests Barcelona will take the “utmost caution” with the left-back to avoid any relapse and potentially more time on the sidelines.
Dest or Junior Firpo?
Dest is the most likely option to continue in the Barcelona defense should Alba not be named in Koeman’s starting XI. The teenager has started the club’s last two games and will be hoping to become the first American to play in El Clasico.
The defender has told Voetbal International, as reported by Sport, that he is enjoying the step up and the challenge of playing for Barcelona after his move from Eredivise side Ajax.
People may think that I went to Barcelona too early, that I should have stayed longer at Ajax. When you go to Spain to live there, you learn Spanish earlier and better than if you stayed in the Netherlands. That’s how I see it with football. I think that when I’m in Barcelona I can develop to a certain level faster. It’s a challenge, but I love it.
Dest does face competition for his place now fellow left-back Junior Firpo has returned to fitness after hamstring trouble. The 24-year-old made his first appearance of the season off the bench against Ferencvaros and is an option to come into the team.
Firpo has struggled to make much of an impact at Barcelona since his move to the Camp Nou in summer 2019 but was part of the Real Betis team that beat Real Madrid 2-0 in his final game Los Verdiblancos.