Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has explained why he turned to Aleix Vidal and not summer signing Ousmane Dembele when his team needed a goal during Tuesday night's Champions League clash with Chelsea, suggesting the €145m Frenchman wasn't ready to play.
Dembele's debut season with Barça has been hampered by injuries, so when Chelsea took a second half lead through Willian, Valverde withdrew central midfielder Paulinho and threw on a winger to try and get the visitors back into the game. But he opted for Vidal instead.
Barcelona desperately need a creative winger to change things up. Chelsea are quite comfortable off possession and they're defending the half spaces very well. Dembele will throw the Chelsea defenders off guard.— ™ (@Tacticomotion_) February 20, 2018
"[Dembele] has spent a lot of time injured and for a game with this characteristics, the managers bet on the things they know and we have a seen it rather than an expectation," Valverde is quoted as saying by AS as he justified leaving the 20-year-old on the bench.
"Aleix gives us things too, he has a distinct profile," the boss continued.
"When we arrive into a game of this calibre, I rely on certainty that I have to put Paulinho in the starting line-up and to put Aleix out there looking for more depth. It's not the moment for experiments or to do tests. That's how I see it."
Having finally returned from a four-month injury layoff in January, Dembele suffered a setback after just four appearances in all competitions. His only outing since then came in the form of a 27-minute cameo as a substitute against Getafe on 11th February.
Barça face fellow Catalan club Girona in La Liga this weekend, followed by domestic games against Las Palmas and Atletico Madrid over the next two weeks.