Luis Enrique
Luis Enrique addressed the media ahead of the trip to Hercules. Getty


  • Catalans visit the Second Division B side before the weekend visit of Real Madrid.
  • Samuel Umtiti is also back available.

Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta and centre-back Samuel Umtiti will be fully fit for the visit of Real Madrid on Saturday (3 December). Manager Luis Enrique confirmed the good news ahead of the Copa del Rey round of 32 first leg with Hercules, but Jeremy Mathieu remains on the sidelines.

The Catalans travel to Alicante on Wednesday to begin their defence of the Copa del Rey title, just three days before the first El Clasico of the season. Luis Enrique plans to make wholesale changes to face the Second Division B side in order to have his gala XI fresh for the visit of Real Madrid.

The boss has given Jordi Alba, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Andre Gomes, Lionel Messi and Neymar permission to miss the training session on Tuesday morning as none of them are expected to be included in his cup squad.

Iniesta will also miss the game due to suspension but Luis Enrique confirmed that the Barcelona captain could return to action against Real Madrid, having already recovered from the serious knee injury sustained during their win over Valencia on 22 October.

"He will not play tomorrow as he is suspended, otherwise he would have had some game time," the Barcelona boss said in the press conference ahead of the trip to Hercules. "He is fully fit and we are just waiting for him to be given the all-clear by the club's doctors."

The boss also provided a boost over Umtiti's recovery. The Frenchman suffered a muscle injury during the recent international break but is also available and could have a chance to play against Hercules in order to gain match fitness ahead of the visit of Real Madrid.

"[Umtiti] trained with us today and completed the full session. He is also at 100% and ready to go," Luis Enrique added.

Arda Turan is also ready to make a comeback against Hercules after missing the weekend draw with Real Sociedad, but Alba will miss the Copa del Rey encounter after picking up a new injury at San Sebastian. Furthermore, Mathieu also remain on the sidelines as he is struggling to recover from a muscle injury he sustained in October.

Barcelona arrive for their Copa del Rey encounter on the back of two consecutive disappointing draws in La Liga against Malaga and Real Sociedad. However, Luis Enrique has dismissed suggestions of a crisis at the Nou Camp as the Catalans are still in contention to win three competitions.

"It is evident that we need to get better and be more consistent, but I don't see any reasons to worry. We are still among the favourites to win titles, but we do need to improve and we are aware of this," the Barcelona boss said. "We haven't changed our style. It is true that we have a very potent strike force and sometimes we look for them too quickly but this is something we are trying to work on. At the end of the day, we will maintain the same philosophy that has won us so much silverware."

The first El Clasico of the season on Saturday is now a must-win for Barcelona following the latest setbacks. However, Luis Enrique insists his side's only focus is on securing a positive result at Hercules, as they also want to retain the Copa del Rey title this term.

"The objective is none other than to win the Copa again as we have done for the last two seasons," the Barcelona boss added. "We are returning to a competition in which we have great memories and to win it again first of all we need to beat Hércules. It is obvious that there is a difference in level but we have seen lots of times how teams from lower divisions have knocked out those from the first division."