Denis Suárez in action during the first game of the Liga season against Betis | VICTOR SALGADO - FCB

The international break over, La Liga returns to the Camp Nou (Saturday 8.30pm CET) with FC Barcelona looking to maintain their 100 per cent record against an Alavés side that has got off to a decent start since returning to the top flight after a ten-year absence.

Team news

There have been changes since Barça’s last Liga fixture. Striker Munir and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo have left for Valencia (on loan) and Manchester City, respectively. They have been replaced by Juan Alcácer (signed from Valencia) and Jasper Cillessen (Ajax Amsterdam), and both have been included in the squad of eighteen announced on Saturday morning.

But goalkeeper Marc André Ter Stegen picked up a hamstring injury in training on Friday - meaning that it will either be Cillessen himself or Jordi Masip who starts between the posts against the Basques.

Leo Messi is also included, but he has been having hamstring trouble over the last few days, while Luis Suárez and Neymar Jr have only just returned from long trips to South America (106 days in the case of the Brazilian, the Rio Olympics included). So Alcácer also has a good chance of taking part in Saturday’s game.

Andrés IniestaJeremy Mathieu and André Gomes have also been declared fit. The first two make the squad, but Gomes will sit it out along with Gerard Piqué and Sergi Roberto.

The complete squad is thus as follows: Cillessen, Masip, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis, Arda, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Aleix Vidal, Umtiti and Mathieu.

For Alavés, the big story is the arrival of winger Aleksandar Katai from Red Star Belgrade, while his Serbian namesake and compatriot Alexsandar Pantic has recovered from injury.

Coaches’ viewpoint

Speaking on Friday, Luis Enrique said: “We’ve had to deal with this game like we always do after internationals, with the players coming back on different days. We respect Alavés. It’s a newly promoted team with a new coach and new players … Pellegrino was once a colleague of mine, so it’ll be nice to see him again.”

“I expect Alavés to retreat, to close spaces, with either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2. We must be attentive in transitions and control their fast players well.”

Alavés boss Mauricio Pellegrino has said that “this is the first time a lot of my squad have played at the Camp Nou, but we haven’t changed anything in training because of this game.. We’ll just go out and compete and play our game. You never know – anything can happen in football. We can always dream.”

Form guide

After winning both legs of the Spanish Super Cup, plus the first two Liga encounters against Betis and Athletic, it’s business as usual at Barça. Despite so many players having been away on international duty and the Champions League visit of Celtic to come on Tuesday, Luis Enrique doubts either circumstance will have a relevant effect on his team’s performance.

Alavés have not played Liga football for a decade, but they have made a confident return. They started the campaign with an impressive 1-1 draw at Atlético Madrid and followed that up with a 0-0 draw with Sporting Gijón.



Managers Luis Enrique and Pellegrino (above) were together on Barça’s books in the 1998/99 season under Louis van Gaal, when the current Barça coach scored twice in a 7-1 defeat of Alavés. But the season after that, it was the Basque side who were smiling after completing a surprise home and away double over the Catalans.

Alavés survived in the top flight for three more seasons after that and also popped back up for one more in 2005/06. They have however been back to the Camp Nou since, in the Copa del Rey in 2007 and again in 2012. On both occasions, Barça progressed after winning the two legs.

Worldwide TV coverage

No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for live, minute-by-minute updates of all the action and there will be live English commentary on Radio Barça.

Back to top