Everything seemed set for Barcelona, for the first time in La Liga this season, to present their Gala XI against Villarreal at the weekend. During 35 games, Ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, Messi, Suarez and Neymar had never started together. And they didn’t against Villarreal in the end, either.
The reason is that Jordi Alba began the game at Camp Nou on the bench, the only player from the ‘A-Team’ to be sacrificed. Even though it may seem a decision taken on a whim by Luis Enrique, it was not one taken lightly. It’s that if Alba had started against Villarreal, three of the four players would have faced a suspension in the case they were booked. Alba, Umtiti and Sergi Roberto all went into the game with four bookings. It would have meant Luis Enrique risking losing 75 percent of his backline for the trip to Las Palmas.
Therefore, the Barça coach decided to reserve one of his bullets. In the end, Sergi Roberto was booked and will not travel with his teammates to Gran Canaria due to a suspension. Umtiti, though, managed to avoid a booking against Villarreal. Therefore, it’s at right-back where Luis Enrique has to decide what to do against Las Palmas this Sunday. If Umtiti or Alba are booked this weekend, they will then miss the final game against Eibar.