Barcelona were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw against Las Palmas but Ernesto Valverde still has a good reason to celebrate after Luis Suarez avoided a yellow card which would have seen him miss the crucial visit of Atletico Madrid on Sunday [4 March].

The Uruguay international headed to the Canary Island one booking away from suspension and there were suggestions that Valverde was even considering resting his striker in order to avoid losing him for the clash with La Liga's second-placed side.

Valverde started Suarez alongside Lionel Messi as Barcelona attempted to restore their seven-point lead over Atletico after Diego Simeone's side won 4-0 at Leganes in their mid-week fixture.

Suarez's presence was however not enough for Barcelona to secure the three points but the decision paid off as the former Liverpool striker managed to stay out of trouble and avoid the suspension.

This means that Valverde will be able to name his strongest team when Atletico visit the Nou Camp in a game which could define the race for the La Liga title.

The Catalans cannot afford a defeat after having seen a 11-point cushion over Los Colchoneros reduced to just five following the recent draws against Espanyol, Getafe and Las Palmas.

Valverde's midfield dilemma

Suarez is expected to lead the attack alongside Messi while Valverde's biggest dilemma will be over who he chooses to partner Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in his usual 4-4-2 formation.


Paulinho has been selected in key games including the 3-0 victory over Real Madrid and the recent 1-1 draw against Chelsea in the first leg of the Champions League last-16. The former Tottenham Hotspur flop also started against Las Palmas and could retain his place if Valverde opts for a conservative approach.

Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are also available and after both started on the bench on Thursday [1 March] it could also be the perfect time for either of the record signings to prove themselves and justify their price tag.


Key trio to return

Meanwhile, Valverde will surely welcome back Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic to his starting line-up to face Antoine Griezmann and co.

Alba missed the 1-1 draw against Las Palmas due to suspension but he is available again and should replace Lucas Digne at the left-back.

Pique was rested against Jemez's side having been struggling with an ongoing knee injury since the beginning of last month. Thomas Vermaelen took his place on Thursday night but the Spaniard will likely return to Valverde's line-up to lead the back-line alongside Samuel Umtiti.

Elsewhere, Rakitic should also regain his place in the middle of the park alongside Iniesta and Busquets after making just a second-half cameo appearance against Las Palmas.