With Barcelona’s Champions League fate on the line when they host Benfica on Tuesday evening, Sergiño Dest’s ability to play is a distinct possibility, but will still be a late decision according to new head coach Xavi.
Dest how now missed a total of five games – three for Barcelona and a further two for the USA – as he struggles to return from a back injury that he suffered shortly before the international break.
While the injury has never been indicated as a major issue by the team, it’s now more than three weeks since his last appearance on the field, on October 30 against Alaves. The American was pictured training with the team on Sunday, one day after they opened the Xavi era with a win over Espanyol.
However, the new coach was careful to temper expectations in statements on Monday, confirming that Dest’s availability for Tuesday’s showdown in Camp Nou would be made closer to gametime.
“Regarding those with injuries – Dembélé, Sergi Roberto, and Dest – it depends on how they feel,” the coach stated, adding “we don’t want players getting injured.”
Barcelona are in perhaps the most precarious position at this stage of the Champions League as they have been in nearly two decades, knowing that anything short of a victory over Benfica on Tuesday will likely leave them as favorites to finish third in the group; even if a draw against the Portuguese side would leave them in second with one game to go.
As they face so-far perfect leaders Bayern in their home ground in Munich on the final game, only taking all three points against Benfica, thus mathematically assuring their advancement with time to spare, will see them as favorites to reach the final 16 for an 18th straight time.