Ansu Fati will join Barcelona against Real Mallorca for the first time in three months after a hamstring injury, Blaugrana coach Xavi has confirmed.
Barca have lost their last three home games in all competitions for the second time in history, last doing so under Louis van Gaal between the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.
Defeats to Rayo Vallecano, who became the first team to be promoted to finish LaLiga twice at Barca from Salamanca in 1997-98, left Xavi’s team in third place – 15 points behind Real Madrid leaders.
While Madrid needs just one point against Espanyol on Saturday to defend the title, Barca will be improved with Fati’s return against Mallorca on Sunday.
The 19-year-old has suffered an injury campaign, last seen in January – not at all in LaLiga since November – and has only played five league games this season in 213 minutes.
“We will provide a list of the team and Ansu will be there,” Xavi told reporters at a press conference before the game.
“She feels comfortable and is making an effort to come back. She will play for at least a few minutes. She is happy, smiles, a special player.
“We take great care of him, we know he’s a special athlete. At the moment the emotions are very good, high speed, very good physically.”
Fati will return to the Barca team that scored just one shot in the last 46 tries in LaLiga, and one of the last 57 in the Camp Nou in the tournament.
However, Xavi emphasizes that his team should respond collectively instead of relying on a young person to make things happen when he plays.
“There has to be a focus on the team. I understand football as a cohesive game. If it’s just one player, if he fails the team doesn’t shoot,” he added.
Everyone has to shoot. Ansu is a different player, he should be very important from now on.
“But nothing is focused on him or anyone else. I never understood it that way.”
Barca will be without midfielder Pedri as the talented youngster continues to recover from a hamstring injury against Eintracht Frankfurt in early April.
The Blaugrana have won eight of LaLiga’s top ten games for Pedri, compared to just ten wins in 23 league games without a Spanish international on the starting line-up this season.
Xavi has given a good review of Pedri as he has suggested he may not have midfielder Gerard Pique when he faces Mallorca.
“Pedri trains separately and feels good,” he added. “Pique has a tendon problem, we’ll see tomorrow, today he was in a lot of pain.
“Nico [Gonzalez] broke his finger when he collided with Ansu. It’s a shame because we don’t have a lot of midfielders, but that’s football.”
Another midfielder who may have left his mark, however, is his dislike of Frenkie de Jong, who seemed unhappy after taking his place in the last Barca game.
“We had a very good face-to-face conversation,” Xavi said of De Jong.
“It is clear that this change has affected him but I have to look at the team, he has had good games but he must not move.
“He knows and is here to make a difference. He is a very important player for now and in the future.”