Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique is believed to be ready to feature in Tuesday’s Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain after secretly returning to training to prove his fitness.
The 34-year-old went down with an injury to his knee ligaments in November’s 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid, and it was feared that because of Pique’s age, it could well have ended up being a season-ending injury.
Fortunately, Pique has recovered well and fears have been lifted, but according to Marca, things have actually gone better than anybody could have ever expected. It’s said he has broken records when it comes to recovering from this kind of injury, and he was snuck into training on Thursday last week to start preparing for Tuesday’s game.
Barcelona did not want the media to know about Pique’s fitness, just in case something went wrong. When they held a 15-minute open training session on Friday, Pique was hidden from the cameras, but is thought he has been training with the side for the last five days.
His knee has not caused Pique any problems, and club officials must now decide whether the Spaniard is ready to return to the starting lineup just three months after suffering the injury.
Pique himself is desperate to play. He sees the importance of Tuesday’s game and wants to help his team fight for a spot in the Champions League quarter-final, given this could be the only competition left for Barcelona to win.
They are already eight points behind La Liga leaders Atletico, who have a game in hand, while they lost the Spanish Super Cup and are 2-0 down to Sevilla in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey.
Manager Ronald Koeman also understands the importance of the match and is leaning towards the idea of playing Pique, although a final decision will not be made until the morning of the game, so as to ensure the defender is 100% prepared.
Koeman doesn’t have too many choices at centre-back right now. Ronald Araujo is also injured and Oscar Mingueza is needed as cover at right-back, so Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti are the only other options.
Umtiti did not even start in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Alaves, with Koeman instead preferring to drop midfielder Frenkie de Jong back into defence.