The Catalan coach has problems to solve now, especially at the back
In two days of international games, Xavi Hernandez's insistence on having two players per position has been justified. The Barça coach, Mateu Alemany and Jordi Cruyff had no doubt that, in an atypical season due to the World Cup between November and December, it was vital to have a deep and luxurious squad depth to equip them for the mission of competing for the most prestigious titles.
After a start to the campaign without physical setbacks, the 'FIFA virus' has hit. Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong have left their national teams due to muscle injuries. In the absence of official confirmation after the relevant medical tests, everything indicates that all of them will miss the matches immediately after the break.
We look here at Xavi's solutions to the avalanche of physical problems in his squad ahead of Barça's tough October run.
Football can be very capricious. After playing just 134 minutes in eight games and being surrounded by a lot of off-field noise, bad news in the form of injuries will become an opportunity for Gerard Pique. Before he had four centre-backs ahead of him and now only Eric Garcia and Andreas Christensen. Taking into account that the calendar will not let up until the World Cup freezes club competition, the second captain will play more regularly.
In the back line, however, the losses of Araujo and Koundé will be more problematic for the right-back slot. Héctor Bellerin hasn't had much continuity so far and Sergi Roberto can't leave his physical problems behind. Both will be forced to take a step forward and show that they have the level to take on a role with more prominence.
ONE LESS MIDFIELDER
Although Frenkie's injury does not seem serious – in fact, at the moment he only has discomfort – the result of the tests on the Dutchman will be important. The No 21 has been in charge of stepping in for Sergio Busquets in the initial stages of the season. Without him, Kessie or the wildcard Sergi Roberto will have to act as a positional defensive midfielder when Busi needs a break. Consequently, Xavi will have one less interior and Pedri and Gavi will have to take on even more responsibility... Provided that Pablo Torre, who will make his debut with the reserves this weekend, does not increase his presence. The young Cantabrian starlet could become a supporting cast member after a few weeks as a mere extra.
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Although Memphis Depay has the most pessimistic forecast, his injury will not be as damaging to Barca as those of his teammates. They have many notable attackers – Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Ousmane Dembélé, Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati– and he is the one who has been on the pitch for the fewest minutes so far (131 minutes). The Dutchman, however, made it very clear against Elche that he can be a very useful resource for the second string. His loss will be noticed when it comes to rotating.