BARCELONA • Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has admitted his side failed to match the work rate of the Espanyol defence in Saturday's 0-0 draw that cost them top spot in the Spanish Primera Liga.
The good news is that he will be able to call on Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal for the first time after a Fifa-imposed ban on the club registering new players ended as they seek to breach Espanyol's resilient defence in the King's Cup last-16 today.
Barca's five-trophy haul in 2015 was all the more impressive given the sanction on fielding new signings that ended when the transfer window opened on Monday. But, while they have coped well, reinforcements will boost the stretched squad.
The Catalans are unbeaten in 18 games but, aside from the two wins that saw them lift the Club World Cup last month, they have just one victory in five matches in all other competitions.
Turan and Vidal were signed ahead of this season from Atletico Madrid and Sevilla respectively for €34 million (S$52.1 million) and €20 million. But they have had to watch from the sidelines due to the Fifa ban for the club's alleged breach of rules on the transfer of foreign Under-18 players.
Football's world governing body Fifa announced in April it had banned Barcelona from the transfer market for two consecutive windows and fined them 450,000 Swiss francs (S$635,000).
"It has been a difficult four months as we have had two players who have been keen to play and we have wanted to see them in action," said technical secretary Robert Fernandez. "Still these months have worked well in letting them get to know our style of play and the system."
With the prolific form of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in Barca's so-called trident attack, Turkey playmaker Turan is likely to be used in a deeper role while Spaniard Vidal is an option for either a midfield spot or at right-back.
"Finally, the sanction has ended," Vidal, who could make his debut against another of his former clubs today, told Barca TV.
"I don't know when I will be able to play my first minutes, but the boss knows we have been training for months to be in prime condition when he needs us."
Like Vidal, Turan arrived as a Europa League champion. He has also lifted the La Liga title, King's Cup and Uefa Super Cup.
"It is a dream to be here but I arrived as a winner of many trophies and my team-mates respected that," he told Turkish newspaper Milliyet.
"The team have been so supportive in helping me settle in and a special moment was when the whole team applauded me after Turkey booked a place in Euro 2016."