Barcelona defender Gerard Pique is in line to return for the Champions League last 16 first leg against Arsenal after taking a full part in training ahead of the game at the Emirates Stadium. The Spain international was omitted from the team that beat Las Palmas in La Liga on 20 February after a medical assessment suggested he was close to physical overload.
Pique has made 35 appearances in all competitions for club and country this season yet his GPS training vest suggested he was on the verge of suffering from significant fatigue. The omission of the former Manchester United centre-back was the only significant alteration made by manager Luis Enrique against the relegation candidates, despite the important European tie in London coming just three days later.
The attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar played the full 90 minutes in 2-1 win in Gran Canaria, despite the close proximity of the first leg against an Arsenal side who rested many of their star players for the FA Cup draw with Hull City. Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin and Mesut Ozil were all left out, while Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez made cameo appearance from the bench.
"I made the decisions that I felt were best for my team," Enrique told reporters of his selection policy. "I am a decision-maker and I make decisions constantly every two or three days. Whether my decisions are right or not is something I cannot control."
Having lost one of their last eight previous meetings with Arsenal and coming into the game as European champions, Barca are the outstanding favourites to progress. Arsene Wenger has urged his side to strike the right balance between attack and defence, and Enrique is wary of the threat posed by the north London side.
"We have to do be excellent on and off the ball to control an opponent like Arsenal," he added, according to the club's official website. "We accept this label [as favourites] but we know that what we have done in the past does not guarantee anything. We know how difficult this competition is, especially away from home. Arsenal have the potential to dominate matches. They are a very difficult opponent and have a very dangerous attack.
"I have the best forwards in the world and it is very easy to coach them because they have the quality to overcome difficulties. Not just the front three but the whole squad. Last year, Messi was amazing and this year he is the same, if not better. Now he is playing on the wing but he has the freedom to move and create. He is our leader."