It's turning into a long season for Ernesto Valverde and FC Barcelona. The coach appears more and more tired at his press conferences and despite being on the verge of an historical season, he appears to be feeling the strain. He has to face the media four times a week with everything still to play for. Yet with those expectations, and constant questions about his decisions and systems, it's important Valverde remains calm.
Valverde and his team take on Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou this Saturday and a victory for the home side all but secures the league title. This would allow him to focus entirely on the Champions League as the Copa del Rey final doesn't take place until the 26th May. They sit eight points ahead of Atletico at the moment and if it went to 11, it's hard to imagine a comeback being on the cards.
However the chance to finish off the league presents Valverde with a couple of dillemmas. Ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, Lenglet and Pique are certain starters but in midfield and up front there are still questions to be answered, as well as who slots in at right back.
ARTHUR IS STRUGGLING
Arthur Melo isn't having his best run of form at the moment. After his injury, where he showed how important he'd become to the side, the Brazilian is finding it tough to stamp his authority on matches. With Arturo Vidal suspended, Valverde must decide whether to stick with Arthur or go for Sergi Roberto in midfield, which would see Nelson Semedo come into the side at right back. Vidal will return for the clash against United on Wednesday and it'll be interesting to see what difference that makes to Valverde's plans.
MALCOM PUSHING FOR A START
One Brazilian who isn't suffering at the moment is Malcom. Every time he's handed an opportunity to shine, he's grasped it with both hands. Once again he was crucial to Barça turning it around against Villarreal to snatch a draw. Coutinho's inconsistency, alongside Ousmane Dembele's injury, means there is a place open for the winger to earn a starting spot against Atletico. Could Valverde finally lose patience with the club's record signing and give Malcom the chance to line up alongside Suarez and Messi?
Source: Sport / Sergi Capdevila