Barcelona's Gerard Pique set for ban for table-top clash at Valencia
Barcelona will be without Gerard Pique for next weekend's top-of-the-table clash at Valencia after the defender picked up his fifth booking of the season in Saturday's 3-0 win at Leganes.
Pique was booked after half an hour at Butarque following a rash challenge on the lively Nordin Amrabat.
Referee Undiano Mallenco quickly flashed the yellow card which, save an unlikely appeal from Barca, rules the centre-back out of the game against second-placed Valencia next Sunday.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde complained to Mallenco and said after the game that the decision could have gone against either team.
"I protested the booking because Amrabat made a lot of the contact, encouraging the challenge," he said. "And because the fans were pressing [for the card]... but for me it was a foul that could have been given in our favour. I'm sure the Leganes coach will think the opposite. But for me the card is excessive."
Pressed on his opinion on whether Pique deserved to be book, Valverde added: "For the Barcelona coach, no. For the Leganes coach, yes. Amrabat's always looking for contact. I don't know if it was a foul for us or for them. The referee saw it one way and that's that."
Barcelona will also be without Javier Mascherano, who is sidelined for the next month with an injury, leaving them with just Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen for the clash.
However, it could have been worse for coach Ernesto Valverde, with Umtiti also going into the Leganes game one booking away from a ban.
The France international came through the game unscathed, though, and is the only certainty to start in the middle of the defence at Mestalla next week.
Vermaelen is likely to partner him, although the Belgian has played just once this season, in the Copa del Rey win against Real Murcia in October. Sergio Busquets and Lucas Digne may be considered as alternative options.
It's the second game Pique will miss through suspension this season. He was sent off against Olympiakos in the Champions League at the Camp Nou and missed the return fixture in Greece.
Luis Suarez scored twice in Barca's win at Leganes -- ending a run of over 450 minutes without a goal, his longest drought since he joined the club from Liverpool -- and substitute Paulinho added the third late on.
Barca are now unbeaten in 17 games in all competitions and are seven points clear of Valencia, who play Espanyol at Cornella-El Prat on Sunday.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.