Barcelona will be without defender Gerard Pique for Sunday’s penultimate league game against Las Palmas.
Pique has not trained all week and Luis Enrique confirmed on Saturday that the centre-back will not be available for a game which Barca must win as they look to take their tussle with Real Madrid for the title to the final day of the campaign.
“Pique will not be with us [against Las Palmas] because he’s had some discomfort this week; we hope he’s better soon,” was Barca coach Luis Enrique’s limited response to the situation in his pregame news conference.
Catalunya Radio first reported that the defender has been admitted to hospital with a virus, and Barcelona confirmed that he needed treatment with a statement that read: “Not in squad due to general sickness and stomach pain has required hospitalisation.”
As well as Pique, Barca will also be without injured duo Aleix Vidal and Jeremy Mathieu in Gran Canaria, while Sergi Roberto will miss the match through suspension.
Young Brazilian defender Marlon Santos will therefore travel with the first team for the game, while Luis Enrique has not reverted back to a three-man backline.
“Marlon is very much an option [to replace Pique] and he will travel with the squad on Sunday,” Luis Enrique confirmed. “Using a back three is one option, too. I could use players that haven’t played as often — I will have to do so on the right of defence [with no Aleix Vidal or Sergi Roberto].
“So there are many options: some are risky, others not so, but the players are ready to take on the challenge. It will be a nice challenge to work out how we get around this difficult situation.”
Barca lead the table from Madrid courtesy of their superior head-to-head record, but Zinedine Zidane’s side have a game in hand and will win the title if they pick up seven points from their remaining three matches.
Los Blancos host Sevilla on Sunday and then close the season with trips to Celta Vigo and Malaga, and Luis Enrique remains hopeful that anything can happen between now and next Sunday.
“If you look at recent history of league, all kind of strange results can happen at the end of the season,” he said before acknowledging the threat Las Palmas will pose Barca.
“They have good ideas. They’re a side that play some of the best football in the league — I have been thinking that since the end of last season.
“Even though we beat them at Camp Nou, we needed to be efficient off the ball. They don’t let you have the ball for free and I think it’s going to be a really difficult game.”