Gerard Pique's booking gives Ernesto Valverde defensive headache for Barcelona's top-of-the-table clash with Valencia next weekend

Gerard Pique's booking gives Ernesto Valverde defensive headache for Barcelona's top-of-the-table clash with Valencia next weekend  Gerard Pique's booking gives Ernesto Valverde defensive headache for Barcelona's top-of-the-table clash with Valencia next weekend

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 seven points clear of a resurgent Valencia, who are also unbeaten in the league and who visit Espanyol on Sunday.

The Spanish centre-back picked up the yellow card shortly after Luis Suarez broke the deadlock as Pique got in a pushing match with former Watford forward Nordin Amrabat.

Samuel Umtiti was also having to play cautiously during Saturday's game as the Frenchman was one booking away from a ban.

The 3-0 victory over Leganes maintains Barcelona's undefeated streak which extends to 17 games in all competitions.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk