Barcelona take on Lyon on Wednesday night with a Champions League quarter-final place up for grabs.
The success of the season hinges on that match and there is a big doubt in the starting line-up for Ernesto Valverde.
He doesn’t know if he will have his preferred XI for the contest as Ousmane Dembele has an injury to the femoral biceps muscle in his left leg and it is unclear if he will be involved.
Although it seems unlikely that he will feature, he hasn’t been definitively ruled out yet.
His absence would be a very noticeable one for the coach, although there are other options for the man in charge.
The France international finished the game against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday but felt discomfort and his participation is now in doubt as it usually takes a week to 10 days to recover from that type of injury, but nobody is daring to rule him out.
His speed, dribbling and directness, as well as his eye for goal, are all facets that will be missing for the Blaugrana if the 21-year-old doesn’t pass a fitness test.
If he doesn’t make it in time, the Barcelona tactician will have to change his plans for arguably the biggest match of the season to this point.
His natural substitute is Philippe Coutinho, who Valverde has called upon for 36 games.
Against Rayo, he was the third man in the attacking trident, which was also made up of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, allowing Dembele rest.
However, he is having a very disappointing season and is not performing at the expected level, with the Camp Nou faithful seeing him off with loud whistles after being substituted in Saturday’s encounter.
His mood, already low, is likely to have been hit even further.
The other natural replacement for Dembele in attack is Malcom. But the former Bordeaux man, who can play on both sides, isn’t particularly in Valverde‘s plans.
Across all competitions, he has participated in 14 games, although it is likelier that he features than Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has frequently not been called upon on matchdays.
In one of the most important games of the campaign, in which the Azulgrana must score, it seems unlikely that the the Brazilian or the Ghanaian will be gambled on.
There is also the possibility that the coach changes system to compensate for Dembele‘s absence.
The coach has already often for a 4-4-2 at times when a 4-3-3 does not appear possible.
In that case, Messi and Suarez would be handed the keys to the attack with four midfielders behind, of which three would certainly be Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Arthur.
That would leave Sergi Roberto, Carles Alena or Arturo Vidal fighting it out for the final berth.