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Barcelona's Iniesta fit to face Chelsea, but first-XI status in doubt - Valverde

BARCELONA -- Andres Iniesta is fit enough to have been named in Barcelona's squad for Wednesday's Champions League clash against Chelsea, but Ernesto Valverde admits it could be a risk to play him from the start.

Iniesta injured his hamstring in last weekend's win against Atletico Madrid and initial reports suggested he would be out for up to a month.

However, Barca never confirmed how long the problem would keep the midfielder sidelined for and he returned to training this week.

With Philippe Coutinho cup-tied, there's no natural replacement for Iniesta in Barca's squad and his importance to their style of play could see him thrown in from the start even if he is not 100 percent fit.

"When you have a game like this, a game of no return we could say, a player is always more willing to push themselves," Valverde said of Iniesta in a news conference. "But we need to decide how big the risk is, we will see."

If Iniesta doesn't play, Valverde will have to choose two from Ousmane Dembele, Andre Gomes and Paulinho to complete his lineup for the match.

Chelsea coach Antonio Conte said he would prefer it if Iniesta was able to take part in the game, given it's a stage which deserves the world's best players.

"Iniesta is a genius with the football," the Italian said in a news conference. "I like to compare him with Andrea Pirlo. I don't know if he will play, but it's a game for the best players."

As well as the cup-tied Coutinho, Barca are also missing right-back Nelson Semedo and midfielder Denis Suarez through injury. Yerry Mina, meanwhile, has been left out of the 18-man squad.

The first leg between the two sides at Stamford Bridge ended 1-1, handing Barca a slight advantage going into the second leg courtesy of Lionel Messi's away goal.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.


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