Image: SOCCERINFOMANIA

Barcelona have been handed a fresh injury concern ahead of the Derbi Barceloni clash with Espanyol and their Champions League opener at home to Juventus, amid confirmation that Ivan Rakitic will not play for Croatia in Tuesday night’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Turkey.

As confirmed by the Croatian Football Federation, HNS, the 84-cap midfielder will not feature in Eskisehir due to a hamstring injury that saw him replaced by Andrej Kramaric in the early stages of the second half of a 1 – 0 victory over Kosovo. The game was resumed on Sunday after being abandoned 24 hours previously due to a waterlogged pitch at Zagreb’s Stadion Maksimir.

“We would risk too much with Rakitic playing again,” explained head coach Ante Cacic, whose side currently sit top of a close-run Group I and two points clear of closest challengers Ukraine with three matches remaining.

The HNS describe the injury as “minor” and Catalan publication Mundo Deportivo has sought to counter claims from Italy that Rakitic will be sidelined for Barcelona’s next two matches, insisting that he could still play against both Espanyol and Juventus.

More will be known on Thursday, when the 29-year-old is expected to report back to the club’s Ciutat Esportiva training base following a one-day rest.

Rakitic joined Barcelona from La Liga rivals Sevilla on a five-year contract in 2014 and earlier this year put pen to paper on a 24-month extension that included a buyout clause set at €125m. He has made 163 appearances in total and remains a first-choice option under new manager Ernesto Valverde, starting opening league matches against Alaves and Real Betis in addition to both legs of the Spanish Super Cup defeat to fierce rivals Real Madrid.

The Blaugrana increased their midfield options during a difficult summer with the surprising addition of former Tottenham Hotspur flop Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande, while former makeshift right-back Sergi Roberto has been eager to switch back to a more natural role. The likes of Denis Suarez, Arda Turan and Andre Gomes all remain at the Nou Camp, although Barcelona were unsuccessful in their high-profile pursuit of Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho.

Fears that Luis Suarez could be set for another spell on the sidelines emerged last week after he appeared to re-aggravate a knee injury during Uruguay’s meeting with Argentina, although the former Liverpool talisman subsequently took to social media to confirm that it was only calf cramp that caused him to limp off in the final stages of a tedious goalless draw.

National coach Oscar Tabarez recently revealed that Suarez was not 100% but would likely still play against Paraguay in Asuncion on Tuesday evening. Midfielder Rafinha remains Barcelona’s only long-term absentee.

Author: Yemi Olarinre