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The two summer signings have been unable to feature due to the Catalan club's suspension in 2015, but can now play and will be useful after three draws in the last four Liga games


GOALCOMMENT  

A subdued start to 2016 for Barcelona. Last season's treble winners were unable to beat city rivals Espanyol in the derby as La Liga got back underway in the New Year on Saturday, but good news is just around the corner as Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are now available for selection.

Barca lacked their usual spark at Cornella and even though Espanyol's heavy-handed approach was very much on the edge of the laws of the game, Luis Enique's side failed to create too many clear-cut chances in their first fixture of 2016. And once again, the Asturian coach showed little faith in his substitutes.

Only Sergi Roberto was utilised out of the seven players on the bench, the midfielder brought on to replace Ivan Rakitic in the second half. But Luis Enrique felt fellow subs Sandro, Munir El Haddadi, Jeremy Mathieu, Adriano and Marc Bartra were unlikely to change the course of the game. And he was probably right.

Asked afterwards about his decision to call upon only Sergio Roberto, the Barca boss said: "Sometimes I make a change. Sometimes two and sometimes three. It depends on how the game is going."


The truth is, however, that the game was not going well and still Luis Enrique made no move - just as he failed to make a single change in the 1-1 draw at Valencia last month and then decided against bringing anyone at all when Mathieu limped off in the Copa del Rey clash against Villanovense at Camp Nou in order to avoid risking an injury to Neymar, Luis Suarez or Andres Iniesta.

With Barca's ban set to expire on Monday after a year of being unable to register new players due to irregularities in their recruitment of youngsters for their La Masia academy, Luis Enrique will now have more options avaiable - while the club are also looking to sign another player in the January transfer window.

Last season, of course, Barca could count on the experience of Xavi and the energy of Pedro from the bench. Both of those two featured mainly as substitutes - especially towards the end of the campaign - and gave the Blaugrana quality options when inspiration was lacking.

However, Pedro left for Chelsea for more first-team football in a move that has failed to really work out so far, while Xavi drew a line under his glorious career at the Catalan club as he opted to continue his playing days in Qatar.



FULL STORY | Barca held by Espanyol in Catalan derby

Arda and Vidal both signed in the summer, but the two have had to wait patiently for an opportunity as timed ticked away on Barca's ban. The Catalan club did make a special request to Fifa for Turan to be able to feature after Rafinha suffered a serious injury back in September, but that plea was denied and the Turkey midfielder has had to wait.

But no longer. Unable to play in this one as the offices at Fifa, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and Professional League association (LFP) all remain closed after Christmas, Turan and Vidal can now make their debuts for their new club at long last: against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night.

"The result was fair, there is nothing to say," Luis Enrique added after Saturday's draw. "Espanyol played at a higher rhythm than us, they were more intense."

That was indeed the case and it is another reason why Barca need more options from the bench in the coming weeks and months. Because without changes to freshen up the team, the Catalans will tire faster than their rivals and also be more susceptible to injuries.







As well as Arda and Vidal, who are both likely to make their debuts in the Camp Nou clash on Wednesday, Barca are keen to bring in a forward this January as a natural replacement for Pedro.

Nolito, who started his career at Barca and is now making his name at Celta Vigo, is top of the club's list but will be difficult to sign in the winter window as the Galicians fight for a place in the Champions League. Another former Barca player, Villarreal's Denis Suarez, looks like a more realistic option.

And even if no more signings arrive, the enormous quality of Turan will hand Barca a significant boost, while Vidal is a player who can operate in several different positions, be it as a full-back, a winger or even a forward.

The timing could not be better. With draws against Valencia, Deportivo La Coruna and now Espanyol in La Liga in their last four Liga games, Barca need their new men to freshen things up and on the Reyes holiday (January 6), when presents are traditionally handed out in Spain, the Catalans can at long last pick their two summer signings. And that, they hope, will be a gift worth waiting for.

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