With Barcelona’s 18-month, FIFA-imposed transfer ban coming to an end this week, new signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal will at last be eligible to play against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey Wednesday.
The match will mark the second time the two Catalan clubs have met in the space of four days, after Espanyol held Barcelona to a scoreless draw on Saturday. The addition of Vidal and Turan will be a welcome respite for manager Luis Enrique, whose squad has been stretched by injury and looked surprisingly short of ideas as it labored to break down a resilient Espanyol defense.
Even the all-star attacking trident of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi proved incapable of unlocking an Espanyol side that, despite creating few chances of its own, limited Barça to just two shots on goal; despite enjoying 72 percent possession, Barcelona had to settle for a point.
While Barcelona remains unbeaten in 18 games, the club has only one win in its last five matches in all competitions.
Turan, formerly an attacking playmaker at Atletico Madrid, is expected to play a deeper role for Barcelona. The Turkish international could provide Enrique with an alternative to the injury-prone Ivan Rakitic or the aging Andres Iniesta. Vidal, meanwhile, who was brought over from Sevilla, is capable of playing as either a right winger or a right-back.
Barcelona is also being linked with a move for Celta Vigo striker Nolito, but to sign the 29-year-old Spaniard Barça would need to meet Vigo’s 18 million Euro buyout clause and scare off reported interest from Arsenal.
Barcelona’s draw on the weekend allowed Atletico Madrid to pip the top spot in La Liga, although Barça does have a game in hand. Enrique will be looking for his team to return to winning ways for the last 16 Cup clash with Espanyol Wednesday.