Ivan Rakitic has been left out of the Barcelona squad for Sunday’s LaLiga clash against Villarreal.
The Croatia international has been omitted “for technical reasons”, the champions said via their official website, with Denis Suarez included for the trip to face his former club at El Madrigal.
Aleix Vidal, Jeremy Mathieu and injured goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen are also missing from the squad.
Rakitic started the 2-1 Copa del Rey defeat to Athletic Bilbao on Thursday but was an unused substitute in Barca’s final two league games before the mid-season break.
Speculation has grown in recent weeks that the 28-year-old could be sold if he remains on the fringes of Luis Enrique’s plans, with Manchester United and Juventus both linked with a bid.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 8, 2017
Speaking last month, Luis Enrique insisted that Rakitic remains an important player, although he stressed that he would not be forced into justifying his selection policy.
“I’m really happy with his commitment, his attitude,” he said in a media conference. “I have to take criticism and I will continue to take them for what I think is best for the team.
“I’ve got no interest in justifying myself to a player of mine. I’m not going to do that. Rakitic has been and will be a good player for Barca.”
Barca travel to El Madrigal six apoints adrift of leaders Real Madrid, who battered Granada 5-0 on Saturday.