Brazilian attacker Malcom is likely to be handed a start by Ernesto Valverde, when Barcelona face off against 17th-placed Villarreal on Tuesday night.

Barcelona will travel to Estadio de la Ceramica as they take on relegation battlers Villarreal in matchweek 30 of the 2018-19 La Liga on Tuesday.

The reigning champions are in firm control of the title run-in and will be aiming to take a step closer to another league triumph with a victory against Javier Calleja’s side in the midweek. With two important fixtures against Atletico Madrid and Manchester United on the horizon, there is a possibility that manager Ernesto Valverde could rotate his squad against the Yellow Submarine.

However, with backup goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen ruled out with an injury, first-choice Marc-Andre ter Stegen should feature from the kickoff on Tuesday night.

There are likely to be a couple of changes at the back though, with Sergi Roberto replacing Nelson Semedo at right-back and Samuel Umtiti coming into the team in place of compatriot Clement Lenglet at the heart of Barcelona defence. Gerard Pique could do with a rest, but is unlikely to be left out given his importance to the team, while there is no looking past Jordi Alba at left-back.

The midfield could also see a tweak with Brazilian midfielder Arthur Melo set to be given the night off by Valverde. Former Juventus and Bayern Munich star Arturo Vidal is expected to walk into the team against Villarreal. The other two slots in the middle should continue to be occupied by Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets, who have rarely been rotated by the manager this term.

In attack, there is a question of Valverde wanting to rest club captain and superstar Lionel Messi. Speaking of his captain in his pre-match press conference, Valverde said (h/t Barca Blaugranes):

“There is never an ideal time to rest a player like him. But we’ll see tomorrow. We think this match is very important. Many are looking ahead to Atletico Madrid, but the three points on offer in this match are much the same as those on offer against Atletico.”

However, given that he has been the difference-maker for Barcelona in recent matches, including the one against Espanyol this past weekend when he scored a double, it does seem unlikely that the Argentine will be benched.

Ousmane Dembele though, remains sidelined with an injury, but Valverde was hopeful of having him back by the weekend or for the fixture against Manchester United. “I’m not completely certain when we will have him back. It might be Saturday, it might be against Man Utd. I can’t give an exact date, but around about that time,” the manager said.

Philippe Coutinho has been used in attack during Dembele’s absence, but after another uninspiring performance against Espanyol, coupled with Malcom’s enterprising display coming on from the bench could see the latter feature from kick-off on Tuesday night. Luis Suarez should get the nod as the striker ahead of backup option Kevin-Prince Boateng.

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