Valverde believes ‘injured’ Pique to start against Valencia

Valverde believes ‘injured’ Pique to start against Valencia

February 8, 2018 Off By Sports Writer

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has said he expects Gerard Pique to start Thursday evening’s tie with Valencia.

The Catalan centre-back scored the equaliser against rivals Espanyol on Sunday afternoon but finished the game with a knock after a rough challenge from Gerard Moreno.

The 31-year-old was set for a month out, according to various reports – and was expected to miss the upcoming Champions League clash with Chelsea later this month.

Early reports claimed Pique will be back in early March, meaning Valverde now had limited defensive options ahead of the Copa del Rey second leg with Valencia this week.

However, his inclusion in the Copa del Rey squad for Thursday night’s semi-final second leg has left fans with the expectation that he will start for Barca.

“I think he can play a part in the game,” Valverde told reporters.

“It is correct he picked up a strain in the match with Espanyol but we have been analysing him in training and believe he can overcome this for the Copa match.

“Valencia are always difficult to play against due to their transition speed of play and their skill in the counter attacks, so it will be a very tough game.

“For this game they will be more positive and aggressive because they are playing at home and chasing it for their supports.

“Will Yerry Mina play? He has been called up and that means he is ready, but we must first analyse others and our own approach.”

Whilst it is unknown if Pique will start, Barca do have a number of defensive problems moving towards to the weekends league action.

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Samuel Umtiti is available, but will miss the weekend tie with Getafe, through injury – whilst Thomas Vermaelen is nursing a hamstring injury.

New Colombian signing Mina is expected to be handed his debut either on Thursday or against Getafe this weekend at Camp Nou, whilst David Costas could make the move up from the B team and feature alongside Mina in that game.