Madrid, Aug 30 : Lionel Messi is likely to miss out again when Barcelona visit newly-promoted Osasuna in the El Sadar Stadium on Saturday.
The Argentinian is putting the final touches to his recovery from a calf injury, and although he has trained alongside the rest of his teammates for over a week, coach Ernesto Valverde probably won't risk his star player. Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele are also out through injury, although with Dembele being talked of as a possible make weight in any deal to bring Neymar Jr back to the club, it's possible he wouldn't have started even if fit.
Midfielder Ivan Rakitic is in a similar situation, and spent the entire 90 minutes of last weekend's 5-2 win at home to Real Betis on the bench amid talk of him leaving the club before Monday night's transfer deadline.
Valverde fielded Frenkie De Jong, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto in midfield last week, but against rivals who are likely to be more physical than Betis, he could be tempted to swap out Sergi Roberto for Arturo Vidal.
Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann will again lead the attack after scoring his first Barca goals last weekend, with Rafinha and Carles Perez in support. Perez impressed on his home debut and could get the nod after scoring Barca's third of the game.
Barca won 3-0 on their last visit to El Sadar and beat Osasuna 7-1 in the Camp Nou the last time the Pamplona side visited Barcelona. However, Saturday's rivals have looked very solid since returning to the top flight at the start of the season.
The side coached by Jagoba Arrasate won 1-0 away to Leganes in their first game and last weekend held Eibar to a 0-0 draw, meaning they have yet to concede a goal this season.
Although Arrasate has maintained the backbone of the team that won promotion, he has added some class in attack with Chimy, who joined from Huesca, along with talented midfielder Roberto Torres. In theory, Barca should have too much for Osasuna, but this is not a game they can expect to win without some sweat - and very possibly some blood and tears. (UNI-XINHUA)