Another match, another injury. Following Lionel Messi's two month layoff with a ligament tear in his left knee, Andres Iniesta suffered a hamstring injury and will be out for 3-4 weeks. The terrible news have dealt yet another major blow to Luis Enrique's already depleted squad.
The true picture can be realised by the fact that Barca have just 16 fit players in the team now and that includes youngsters like Sandro and Munir and third choice goalkeeper Masip. Adriano is also said to be suffering from heart related ailments. This puts a huge pressure on the younger players to perform and recent performance suggests their efforts have paid off. But it remains to be seen if they can fill in the void of players like Messi and Iniesta.
After struggling for 80 minutes against Leverkusen in the recent UCL encounter played at the Camp Nou, Munir, Roberto and Luis Suarez inspired a comeback to keep Barca in the path of qualification to the knockout stages. Special praise must be given to Roberto whose continued efforts paid off as he scored the crucial equaliser. Munir and Suarez did the rest.
Now the big question arises. With Iniesta out, who can replace him at the moment? Busquets and Rakitic are the only experienced midfielders fit. Sergi Roberto may be given a more prominent role in the midfield with Alves returning from injury and expected to retain his role as a right back. The former has been a revelation this season and looks set to repay the faith Enrique has put on him. Another alternative that has been suggested is playing Mascherano in CDM and Busquets and Rakitic in CM positions. That would mean Pique pairing up with Mathieu or Bartra in CB.
Filling the forward positions seems even more challenging. Munir provided wonderful assists in the last couple of matches whereas Sandro seems to be missing easy chances. However it has to be noted Munir is more of the creator winger and Sandro the goal scorer. Each with their strengths and weaknesses. Plenty for the management to ponder about.
With Claudio Bravo almost fit, it is likely he is going to take up the duties from the error-prone Ter Stegen. Masip can hope he gets to play in the Copa Del Rey first round matches. Ter Stegen could remain as Barca's Champions League goalkeeper but, given his recent performances, even that remains in the air.
With the squad depth at its worst possible shape, its time the players rise up to the occasion and deliver. Come January, expect Turan and Vidal to play massive roles. Till then its up to the youngsters to perform and stamp their causes for a first team berth.
Difficult times ahead, let's stay together!