Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic ruled out for trip to Malaga as Barcelona continue Real Madrid pursuit

Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal
Gerard Pique

Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic will miss the Barcelona trip to Malaga on Saturday (8 April) after both players were booked during the Wednesday's 3-0 win over Sevilla. The news is a fresh blow for manager Luis Enrique as he also has absences from Rafinha Alcantara, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal ahead of another key game – to keep the pressure on Real Madrid in the La Liga title race.

Luis Enrique recovered his strongest line-up to face Sevilla after Lionel Messi missed the previous win over Granada due to suspension and other key players, such as Pique and Andres Iniesta, being rested following the international break.

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The Barcelona boss thus deployed a 3-4-3 formation – with the MSN trident leading the attack – to secure a comfortable win over Sevilla, thanks to two goals from the Fifth time Ballon D'or and another one from Luis Suarez.

The victory allowed the Catalans to remain two points behind Real Madrid on the La Liga table, after Los Blancos also beat Leganes 4-2 in the other big game of the day.

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But Luis Enrique will have to rotate his squad to face Malaga on weekend after both Pique and Rakitic picked up their fifth yellow card of the season against Jorge Sampaoli's side.

The news is a blow ahead of the trip to Malaga but also has a positive slant as both should be ready for the hotly expected El Clasico at Real Madrid on 23 April.

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In the meantime, Jeremy Mathieu could replace the Spanish international at the heart of defence at Malaga, if Luis Enrique sticks to the 3-4-3 formation – while the likes of Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez could have a chance to prove themselves in the middle of the park.

The Barcelona boss will hope to not lose more players before Saturday as Rafinha, Arda Turan and long-term casualty Vidal are also ruled out of facing Malaga due to varying injury concerns.

Yet, on Wednesday night, Barcelona announced that Brazil international Rafinha will need to undergo a knee surgery on Friday – despite previous reports claiming that he only had a minor injury in the internal meniscus.

Barcelona are yet to set a time frame on his recovery but the versatile midfielder is a major doubt for the decisive coming fixtures that included the two legs of the Champions League quarter finals against Juventus (11 April and 19 April) and the La Liga trip to Real Madrid.

Meanwhile, the rest of the available Barcelona players train on Thursday morning in order to begin the preparation for a Malaga clash, which will come only three days before the travel to Juventus.

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