November 18, 2017 / 4:25 PM / a year ago

Soccer-Pique booking gives Barca defensive headache against Valencia

BARCELONA, Nov 18 (Reuters) - La Liga leaders Barcelona will be short of options in defence for next Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash with Valencia after Gerard Pique was suspended for the game by picking up a fifth booking of the season against Leganes on Saturday.

Pique’s absence comes after Argentina international Javier Mascherano was ruled out for a month with a muscle injury, leaving coach Ernesto Valverde with only two defenders for the crucial trip to the Mestalla in Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen.

Injury-prone Belgium defender Vermaelen, 32, has not played a minute of action for Barca this season and has only been named as a substitute in three games. He has, however, played five of Belgium’s last six internationals, starting their recent friendlies against Mexico and Japan.

Barcelona, who were leading 1-0 at Leganes at half-time thanks to a goal by Luis Suarez, are four points clear of a resurgent Valencia, who are also unbeaten in the league and who visit Espanyol on Sunday. (Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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