Gerard Pique
Pique was nursing a knee problem at Stamford Bridge. Getty Images

Ernesto Valverde has admitted that Gerard Pique continues to struggle with an ongoing knee injury after the Barcelona centre-back played the 1-1 draw against Chelsea on Tuesday (20 February) with strapping on the area.

Pique suffered the injury during the 1-1 La Liga draw against Espanyol on 4 February following a heavy challenge from striker Gerard Moreno.

The 31-year-old defender decided to play through the pain four days later in the Copa del Rey semi-final against Valencia, helping Valverde's side to book a place in the final with a 3-0 victory on the aggregate.

But the Spain World Cup winner had to be replaced by Yerry Mina in the closing stages of that game and Valverde decided to give him a much needed rest for the La Liga stalemate with Getafe.

The Barcelona star returned to action during the weekend's victory over Eibar and played the full 90 minutes in the Champions League draw at Chelsea on Tuesday [20 February] night.

However, the centre-back didn't look fully fit and Valverde provided an uncertain update when asked about his fitness problems in his post-match press conference.

"Fine, he [Pique] is fine," Valverde said in the press conference before admitting: "He struggled a bit in the first half but he ended the game better than we expected."

Marca says that Pique limped his way out of Stamford Bridge and is a doubt for the upcoming La Liga clash with Girona on Saturday (24 February).

The Spanish publication adds that Valverde's priority would be to have Pique 100% fit when Barcelona take on Chelsea in the second leg of the Champions League last 16 on 14 March.

Yet, before the visit of the Blues, the Catalans will face five important games in La Liga against Girona (24 February), Las Palmas (1 March), Atletico Madrid (4 March), Espanyol (7 March), and Malaga (10 March).

Barcelona are just seven points ahead of Diego Simeone's Atletico side so the clash against Los Colchoneros could end up being decisive in the race for the title.

The positive news for Valverde is that Thomas Vermalen should be available to help Barcelona again after the Belgium international was named on the bench against Chelsea, having recovered from a hamstring injury which has kept him on the sidelines for around a month.

Furthermore, January signing Yerry Mina will also be hoping to have a chance to prove his worth during the demanding run of fixtures after the Colombia international impressed in his La Liga debut against Getafe.