Two Barcelona youngsters make squad to face Malaga amid Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic absences

Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal
Carles Aleña

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has been forced to promote Alex Carbonell and Carles Aleña from the second team ahead of the coming trip to Malaga on Saturday (8 April) due to the absences of all Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic, Rafinha Alcantara, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal. The Catalans visit the Andalucian side after their midweek 3-0 win over Sevilla helped them to keep the pressure on Real Madrid in the La Liga title race.

Carbonell made his first-team debut with Barcelona earlier in the season during a Copa del Rey encounter against Hercules on 30 November 2016. The 19-year-old versatile midfielder has since failed to make the breakthrough into Luis Enrique's side but could be ready for a new opportunity to prove his worth at Malaga.

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Aleña, meanwhile, also made his debut in the Copa del Rey encounter with Hercules but has been a regular with the first-team in recent games due to the injuries of Rafinha and Turan. The 19-year-old creative midfielder is considered as the next big thing to emerge from the second team and already played some minutes in the last two La Liga wins over Granada and Sevilla.

Luis Enrique has included both Barcelona youngsters in his 18-man squad to face Malaga in order to cover the number of absences in his squad due to suspension and injuries.

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Rafinha, Turan and long-term casualty Vidal remain on the sidelines, with the last one having already ruled out for the remaining of the campaign due to an ankle blow.

Rafinha is set to undergo a knee surgery on Friday (7 April) and 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.

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Turan, meanwhile, is also expected to miss the Champions League quarter finals but has some chances to recover in time for El Clasico at Real Madrid on 23 April.

Furthermore, Pique and Rakitic are also unavailable to face Malaga after both Barcelona players were booked during the Wednesday's 3-0 win over Sevilla.

Jeremy Mathieu also returns to Luis Enrique's 18-man squad after being rested against Sevilla. The France centre-back could take the place of Pique in the heart of the defence alongside Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti if the Barcelona boss sticks to a 3-4-3 formation.

Barcelona face Malaga only three days before their trip to Italy for the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals against Juventus. The game against the Andalucian side is crucial to keep alive their hope to revalidate the La Liga title, being currently two points behind Real Madrid.

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