Antoine Griezmann is expected to retain his spot in the starting lineup, with Luis Suarez likely to be benched when Barcelona take on Espanyol.

Barcelona returned to winning ways when they travel to Estadio de la Ceramica on the weekend registering a 4-1 win. This victory would do the squad a world of good after consecutive draws against Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid. The Blaugrana are now ready to host local rivals Espanyol, who sit bottom of the league and would be officially relegated if they drop any point in the game.

The prime concern for Quique Setien would be the players who are at the risk of suspension. As many as six players are walking that tightrope, including Gerard Pique, who could be enroute his third suspension for the season if he picks up a yellow card against Espanyol.

The other players who are at danger of missing a game are Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Martin Braithwaite, Ivan Rakitic and Junior Firpo. Setien addressed this topic in his pre-match press conference.

“It’s true at the start we looked at that but I’ve not said anything specific about that. I want players to play with freedom, and if we lose a player through suspension, then they will just have to rest. We’ve got a couple of positions that are covered with players from the B team. There are players I’d love to have all the time, but if they are suspended, it’s not a problem.”

Starting with each of the regulars at risk of suspension could prove to be very risky for Barcelona and we are expecting Luis Suarez to be dropped to the bench, with Antoine Griezmann and Messi retaining their spots in a two-man strike partnership. Griezmann played against Villarreal as a second-striker – a position he made his own under Diego Simeone – and flourished in the system.

Alex Collado could get a run out in the team with so many players running suspension risks. (Photo by Cooper NEILL / AFP)
Alex Collado could finally get a run out with the first team with so many players running the risk of suspension. (Photo by Cooper Neill/AFP/Getty Images)

Riqui Puig has been on an incredible run of form of late and could feature in the no. 10 role behind the two forwards. Puig will be supplemented by Arturo Vidal, Rakitic and Arthur. Rakitic will sit at the base of the midfield, with Vidal and Arthur supporting the Croat on the right and left sides, respectively.

Arthur has not clocked in a single minute since his move to Juventus was made official, but could start against Espanyol, if we go by Setien’s comments.

“We know he’s signed with another team, but he’ll be here until our games are finished. He’s still training with the team, he’s shown desire and enthusiasm,” the  Barcelona manager said before continuing, “Then there are decisions I have to make which depend on a lot of things.”

Gerard Pique loves a game versus Espanyol, and will not be rested despite the risk of suspension. He will be partnered by Clement Lenglet, who has looked solid since the restart. Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo will provide the width from the back. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will guard the posts for Barcelona, looking to get back to keeping a clean sheet.

Barcelona Predicted XI (4-3-1-2): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Rakitic, Arthur; Puig, Messi, Griezmann

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