• The La Liga leaders returned to training on Friday following their 1-1 draw at Las Palmas.
  • Ernesto Valverde promoted Vitinho, José Antonio Martínez, Jokin Ezkieta and Dani Morer from the B team.

Barcelona's players returned to training on Friday (2 March) only hours after their disappointing 1-1 draw at Las Palmas in order to begin the preparations for the crucial visit of second-placed Atletico Madrid.

Manager Ernesto Valverde voiced his frustration with the schedule ahead of of the Catalans' long trip to the Canary Island with Diego Simeone's side having played their corresponding La Liga fixture against local rivals Leganes one day previous.

"This week the schedule is against us. There are a lot of questions and reasons why schedules are the way they are and sometimes the sporting side of things is not considered as much. This time it's us who have the long journey and who play a day later than Atletico. It's not Atletico's fault - and it could have been the reverse," the Barcelona boss said in the press conference as quoted by Sport.

The La Liga leaders therefore have one day less to prepare for the game than Atletico and Valverde's pupils were consequently asked to train on Friday morning despite having arrived back in Barcelona in the early hours.

"For the players that had featured at the Estadio de Gran Canaria, the session at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper involved the usual post-match warm-down routine," the club informed in the official website while adding that Valverde also promoted four players from the second team to the workout.

"Ernesto Valverde boosted the numbers by also calling on the services of Barça B's Vitinho, José Antonio Martínez, Jokin Ezkieta and Dani Morer."

Barcelona have seen their seven-point cushion over Atletico reduce to five following their unexpected draw at Las Palmas but it appears Valverde will at least have a nearly fully fit squad to choose from for the crunch top-of-the-table fixture with Los Colchoneros.

Nelson Semedo was the only injury absentee for the trip to Canary Island and the visit of Atletico will surely come too early for him, having been ruled out for around five weeks due to a hamstring injury suffered in the weekend's 6-1 victory over Girona.

But Barcelona have not reported any new injuries from the trip to Las Palmas so the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and co should be ready to start on Sunday [4 March].

Sergi Roberto will likely retain his place in the right-back due to the absence of Semedo while Valverde will also welcomed Jordi Alba back to cover the left-back after the Spanish international missed the trip to Las Palmas due to suspension.

Gerard Pique's fitness has been also a matter of concern among fans since the Spaniard picked up a knee injury during the 1-1 La Liga draw against Espanyol on 4 February following a heavy challenge from striker Gerard Moreno.

The defender has missed some training sessions in recent weeks with Valverde admitting after the recent Champions League clash with Chelsea that he was still struggling with the issue.

Pique failed to complete the full 90 minutes of the weekend win over Girona and was left on the bench against Las Palmas, with Thomas Vermaelen taking his place in the heart of the back-line alongside Samuel Umtiti.

But the centre-back appeared to be fully fit in the video released by Barcelona during Friday's workout and should be ready to lead Valverde's defence when Atletico visit the Nou Camp in a clash which could be key in the race for the title.

Nelson Semedo
Nelson Semedo is set to miss the visit of Atletico after suffering a hamstring injury against Girona. Getty