Barcelona defender Gerard Pique remains a doubt for the final game of La Liga this weekend. Pique is still suffering the after-effects of the stomach virus which ruled him out of the win over Las Palmas on Sunday.
Despite being cleared to leave hospital on Sunday and training alone at the Ciudad Deportiva on Wednesday, Pique was not able to take part in the group session on Thursday. The rest of the Barça players were back in under Luis Enrique’s orders after being given a few days off to rest ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Eibar at Camp Nou.
With Pique unable to take part in the session, Luis Enrique once again called up Marlon Santos, who made his La Liga debut in Gran Canaria at the weekend.
Therefore, it seems Pique is still touch and go for the Eibar game, while Javier Mascherano may also be missing with a thigh problem. Sergi Roberto will return from his suspension, though.
Now, the title race goes to the very last day of the season, as we all expected, but with Real Madrid virtually over the line after a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo, as we all expected.
There was something horribly familiar about the game at Balaidos, the goals from Ronaldo, the controversial red card for Iago Aspas, the debatable refereeing decisions as Los Blancos moved three points clear.
So now Barcelona must play catch-up, they must beat Eibar on Sunday and then hope and pray that somehow Malaga can pull off a miracle by beating Madrid.
Three points is the gap going into the final weekend yet it’s not just on the pitch where Barcelona are lagging behind Real Madrid it’s off it too.
Zidane was able to make five changes to the team that beat Sevilla bringing in Marcelo, Luka Modric, Casemiro, Isco and Benzema.
Alvaro Morata with just the 20 goals this season didn’t even make it off the bench while Marco Asensio and Lucas Vasquez only managed brief cameos.
Nacho Fernandez who saw his suspension somewhat controversially lifted before the game wasn’t even needed while the injured Pepe and Dani Carvajal were hardly missed either.
Talking of missing men, Madrid were also without two of their biggest signings, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale – neither of whom were missed, indeed Bale will struggle to get back into this side when he finally returns from injury. James, meanwhile, may well have already played his last game for the club.
It’s such a huge contrast to Barcelona whose bench against Las Palmas consisted of Denis Suarez, Arda Turan, Jasper Cillessen, Mascherano, Paco Alcacer, Andre Gomes and Carlos Alena.
Zidane has also frequently rested and rotated Ronaldo this summer and it’s paid dividends as he has ended the season in prolific goalscoring form – he has 13 goals in his last eight games.
In stark contrast, Luis Enrique’s attempts at rotation this season have cost the team points, just look back at the defeats to Alaves, Malaga and Celta Vigo.
It could have all been so different particularly as Neymar has openly admitted this week he thinks this is his best ever season at Barcelona while Lionel Messi has enjoyed yet another ridiculous campaign smashing records left, right and centre and hitting over 50 goals again.
Yet somehow it still looks as if it will not be enough and that Barcelona will miss out on the title by just three points, despite winning an unforgettable Clasico last month.
This summer will be a huge one for the club with a new coach coming in and the team in need of strengthening. Indeed there is much to be done to close the gap, and it must be done right this time.