Two players have come back to training ahead of the midweek Copa del Rey showdown with eternal rivals Real Madrid
It is an important next few weeks with regards to this season for Barcelona,who face Madrid in the Copa del Rey semifinal second leg on Wednesday night and then in the on Sunday, followed by the Supercopa final against Girona, and then Rayo Vallecano in the league rounding off a hugely vital run of games with a pivotal second leg against Lyon in the Champions League round of 16.
The Catalans have built up a seven-point lead over Atletico Madrid in second in the La Liga table, so they are relatively comfortable there, but places in the knockouts of the two cup competitions are still under threat, with the first legs ending 1-1 and 0-0, respectively. But the club did get some good news ahead of this busy run of games.
Arthur Melo and Jasper Cillessen returned to training on Monday after being out with injuries. The Brazilian midfielder, especially, will be welcomed back as he is a key component of the side due to his suitability to the philosophy of the team, thanks to his aggressive pressing and that innate ability to open up passing lanes for the forwards. While may he not be fully fit for the midweek clash, Arthur should be ready for the Clasico clash in the league.
In the 22-year-old’s absence, Arturo Vidal, Sergi Roberto and Philippe Coutinho have all filled in the same position, but with little Academy graduate Carles Alena was impressive during his brief cameo against Sevilla, but it is highly unlikely that it was enough to stake claims to a starting berth. One thing is for sure, that Arthur’s arrival will improve the overall cohesiveness of the team thanks to his ability to thread quick passes, both long and short, which will only help Lionel Messi during this taxing run of matches, and that spells trouble for the opposition.
Goalkeeper Cillessen was set to miss both semifinal legs when he picked up a calf injury at the start of February, which was a major disappointment personally as they were his biggest matches of the season thanks to the Dutch international being limited to playing in the cup as backup to Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But his return could also be fastracked a few weeks ahead of schedule, and if not as start, he does at least provide experience and depth as a back-up between the sticks over the next few weeks.
Barcelona have struggled recently, especially defensively, during matches and it has only been the magic of that man Messi that has seen them maintain top spot in the league and stay alive in the Copa Del Rey clash. Arthur’s return should surely boost the side ahead of such a huge run of fixtures, and the man coined as the successor to club legend Xavi will want to hit the ground running and ease the worries of his team. But they need to tighten up considerably at the back if they are to come out of such a run of games with hopes still intact of glory on all four fronts, else even the magic of their talismanic Argentine and the returning Arthur cannot save them from a few disastrous results!