Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar returned to training on Thursday morning (27 October) as Barcelona begin preparations for a Saturday clash with Granada, followed three days later by their Champions League trip to Manchester City. But the big news at the workout was the presence of Marlon, Nili and Alex Carbonell from the second team as Luis Enrique tries to address the injury crisis afflicting his back-line.
The manager gave a deserved rest to his MSN attacking trio, as well as Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Javier Mascherano, Lucas Digne, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti, for the Catalan Super Cup defeat to Espanyol to keep them fresh for the coming fixtures.
He used only six senior-squad players for that match to limit the chances of further testing his already overcrowded treatment table.
However, the precautionary measure didn't work as Jeremy Mathieu joined Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba, Jasper Cillessen, Rafinha Alcantara and Aleix Vidal on the list of casualties after being forced off late in the game.
Barcelona confirmed the worst on Wednesday, ruling Mathieu out for the next three weeks due to an injury in the lower calf.
Cillessen and Rafinha are expected to be back soon, but Enrique is left with a big gap in his defence, with just two centre-backs –Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti – fit for the games against Granada and Manchester City.
The situation is not much better on the defensive flanks. Out-of favour Vidal is also on the sidelines while Sergi Roberto only returned from injury in the weekend victory over Valencia. Furthermore, Lucas Digne is the only left-back available at the moment as Jordi Alba is also expected to miss both matches with a muscle injury.
The Barcelona manager thus used the Catalan Super Cup against Espanyol to test some second-team players, and see if any were ready to step into his defence.
Centre-back Marlon, right-back Nili and defensive midfielder Alex Carbonell look like the leading candidates for the step-up, after the trio joined training with the rest of the Barcelona first-team squad.
Reports in Spain suggest Marlon is the most likely to feature in Luis Enrique's plans. The 21-year-old centre-back was recruited on loan from Fluminense in the summer and made a good impression during pre-season.