Andre Gomes starts for Barcelona against Athletic Bilbao in La Liga this evening, on Ernesto Valverde’s return to San Mames.
A sudden fever has prevented Javier Mascherano from traveling to Athletic, the Argentine joining Thomas Vermaelen, Arda Turan, Aleix Vidal, Rafinha, Ousmane Dembele and Andres Iniesta on the treatment table.
However, Jordi Alba has recovered from a thigh injury to displace Lucas Digne at left-back.
Valverde coached Athletic over two spells, guiding them to the Supercopa in 2015 – their first piece of silverware in 31 years – and becoming the Leones Coach with the most appearances under his belt (306).
Athletic, meanwhile, cannot call on key trio Mikel Balenziaga, Oscar De Marcos and Iker Muniain – all of whom are suffering setbacks – while Yeray Alvarez is still on the mend from his cancer treatment.
Jose Angel Ziganda, Valverde’s successor, is feeling the heat after just five wins in his first 15 games at the helm.
Worse yet, the Basques have beaten Barca only twice in La Liga since 2003, although both of those victories came at home.
Athletic Bilbao: Kepa; Boveda, Laporte, Nunez, Lekue; San Jose, Iturraspe; Williams, Raul Garcia, Cordoba; Aduriz
Subs: Herrerin, Saborit, Benat, Susaeta, Etxeita, Mikel Rico, Sabin
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Paulinho; Messi, Suarez, Gomes
Subs: Cillessen, Semedo, Denis, Deulofeu, Alcacer, Digne, Oriol
Referee: Martinez Munuera