Ousmane Dembele is in line to make his Barcelona debut when Espanyol visit the Nou Camp on Saturday (9 September), but Ernesto Valverde refused to confirm whether the new signing will feature in the starting-line up. Meanwhile, the Spanish boss suggested he will need to assess the fitness of Luis Suarez and Paulinho, after the two players only returned from international duty on Friday.
Dembele was identified as the player to replace Neymar after the Brazilian agreed a €222m (£202m, $267m) world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain on 3 August. However, the France starlet was unable to help the Catalans in the first games of the season as the negotiations between Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund were delayed for several weeks due to the Germans' demands.
The 20-year-old France international finally completed his long-awaited move on 25 August after the Catalans agreed to make him the most expensive signing in the history of the club in a deal worth €105m plus €40m in add-ons.
Valverde says that the Frenchman has taken advantage of the international break to settle into his new club, but was coy when asked whether he will be a starter.
"I'm not going to say if I plan to start Dembele or not. I don't know the Espanyol line-up either," Valverde said in the press conference ahead of the derby.
"It has been good for Dembele to train here for these last few days. Every day he looks more relaxed and more involved. I think he is ready, but we have to see how much he is going to play. He is a kid of 20, very young. We all are aware of the impact his signing has made, he has been fine but at the end of the day these kind of things do have an effect."
Valverde faces further selection dilemmas regarding his line-up, with the derby against Espanyol coming just three days before the visit of Juventus in the Champions League opener.
Most of his players have been away during the last week due to the international break, while Suarez and Paulinho only returned to Barcelona on Friday following their respective commitments with Uruguay and Brazil.
Suarez's situation is especially critical as the forward only returned to action for Uruguay after missing the first to La Liga games of the campaign due to a knee injury suffered during Barcelona's 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on 16 August.
"Many of my players will go into the game more tired than the Espanyol players and we will see how Paulinho and Suarez are because they return today [Friday] and I have yet to see them," the Barcelona boss said.
"I have not been able to speak to [Suarez] but as far as I know he is fine because he has played two intense matches. Against Alaves I was close to including him in the squad but I have to assess [whether he plays against Espanyol] as on Tuesday we have a Champions League game."
Arda Turan is expected to be unavailable after on Thursday the club revealed that the Turkish international returned from international duty with a hamstring injury.
Reports in Spain on Thursday night claimed that Barcelona had agreed to send him on loan to Galatasaray, only for the player to block the move.
Valverde was coy about those speculations but claimed that the former Atletico Madrid features in his plans – despite having failed to play a single minute in the first games of the season.
"I have not talk to Arda, he returned with a muscle problem and on Thursday was in the gym," Valverde said, before adding: "I'm counting on him as with any other member of the squad. [Whether he plays] will depend on his work, I would like him to score three goals in every match."
Barcelona's failure to get rid of Turan has not been the only disappointment of the La Liga giants during the summer transfer window. Yet, the Catalans official were also unable to sign Liverpool star Phillipe Coutinho or any other alternative despite having previously said that they could make even two new additions on the last days of the summer transfer window.
Valverde admitted before the international break that he was waiting for more signings, but has now said: "The best thing about the transfer window is that is already closed. We are focused on the team we have and I'm happy with the whole squad. Our team is the best team in the world. The tendency is to downplay what we have and overestimate the others more but we have a great team and we are going to fight for everything."