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Why Lionel Messi's injury is a blessing in disguise for Barcelona

Barcelona are right where we want to be: battered, bruised, but winning. After Lionel Messi’s injury, a desperate cry of panic could be heard coming out of every supporter and club official.

Rightfully so. The Argentine has stepped up on more than a few occasions to share his genius with the world and bring in the three points for Barcelona in the most of desperate moments. Even in the better part of the game against Bayer Leverkusen it was obvious that the team was like a canvas, missing its maestro - the only one that can complete the painting.

But Messi is not going to be there for the next seven weeks, which leaves Barcelona standing on a crossroads - between a road leading to desperation and one leading to redemption. Far too many times the team has fallen back on Messi to get the job done. Not now though.

The team is already swamped with problems -- Rafinha, Vermaelen, Bravo, Adriano and Iniesta are out. FIFA enforced its ban on the Catalans, denying the club’s request to use Arda Turan due to the critical circumstances in which the squad finds itself and on top of that - Messi is out.

But it can only get better from here on. The game of football is played by eleven players aside and now the team needs to show that the lads can come together and overcome adversity. Luis Enrique needs to explain what is at stake here - if we make it now, there will be no finish line. When you are missing your best player, your captain and your central defender people will be quick to write you off. The team needs to prove that Barcelona is more than just a single player - even if that is the best player in the world.

Looking back in time one can see that Barcelona can survive.

Last time the Argentine was out for such a long period was in November 2013 under Tata Martino. He missed nine games then - Granada, Getafe, Villareal, twice Cartagena for Copa del Rey, Ajax and Celtic in the Champions League, Athletic Bilbao and Elche. Barcelona won seven of those, losing only against Bilbao on San Mames and Ajax in Amsterdam.

Statistically speaking the Catalans with Messi in the squad win 70% of their games, without him the number is 62,6%; the average goal scored with him on the pitch is 2,5 - without him 2,1. Despite that, Messi is sidelined once again and Barcelona need to look elsewhere for heroes.

It has been said already - with the absence of La Pulga the time for other leaders to emerge is now. Luis Suarez and Neymar have been signed as the ones that need to prove that their price tags and that their alleged qualities are rightfully attributed to them.

On Tuesday against Bayer Leverkusen, we saw they can be leaders. Although, the first half of the game was not particularly spectacular for anybody, Neymar was still the most active - hitting the post and setting up Sandro’s miss.

After the break we saw Enrique pulling Neymar in the centre and we saw that he can take on the responsibility and open spaces for the rest of the team. Luis Suarez on the other hand did what he does best - score the decisive goal with minutes to go.

Another important role is the one that the young La Masia players have in times like these. Sergi Roberto, Munir and Sandro have a unique opportunity to get their names in the first team. Barcelona needs it youngsters to step up more than ever now.

And they did.

Despite the missed chances Sandro was the only player to threaten Bayer Leverkusen’s goal in the first half. On several occasions he showed determination and desire to recover lost balls and help Dani Alves in defence. Add this one to performances in the previous games and we can identify a young player that can provide enough ambition and promise to be considered as a solid addition to the squad.

Much like him, Munir excelled on the field, albeit for shorter period. He also assisted for the second goal with a great break on the right. Every game he features in provides more experience and confidence for the young lad. The pace he brings in makes him a good choice for Luis Enrique - something the coach already took advantage of.

And then there is Sergi Roberto - he came in as sub and immediately had an impact on the game. He continued to show great attitude and form like in the previous games, although this time he was placed in the midfield. He scored a goal, recovered and intercepted a couple of balls and brought in the fresh legs in a key moment of the night. Dani Alves looked out of sorts, making a lot of fans wondering if Sergi Roberto should start on the right back. The young La Masia graduate also showed that he can be easily considered for Iniesta’s position, now that he is sidelined.

At the end of the evening, Barca came out victorious. Despite the slow start, the lack of usual possession dominance and typical style of play - the team found its leaders right when they needed them - both Suarez and Neymar did what they have too, albeit not flashy. Not only that, but the young players made an impact on the game right when it was needed. We saw a difficult game, a bruised squad, but a winning team.

And all without Messi.

Had Barca lost the game against Leverkusen the narrative would have been strikingly different - a team that can’t win without Messi, a team that is last in the group with one point - a team that is in danger.

But it isn’t. Despite the hesitations, Barca overcame the difficulties. It wasn’t beautiful, but thanks to the group effort, the Blaugranas got what they needed.

By Stefan Satchkov, columnist at Barcablog. Follow him on Twitter @StefanSatchkov  


  1. Brent Acosta30.9.15

    i felt that way the last time messi was injured for an extended period. it helps the team

    1. Most of all, it will force everyone to be on their game and not rely on him. It can be a make it or brake it month for us. It all starts with Sevilla away, which is a traditionally difficult place to play.

    2. DRAGO1.10.15

      Messi's absence is most certainly not a blessing. It will be more difficult to win the games he will miss. Everyone else has to lift their game. However, it may yield a positive in that the enforced rest will be a benefit to Messi. Hopefully, that will mean he will be firing on all cylinders at the business end of the season

  2. Anonymous2.10.15

    Great article! I like that you always go a little deeper in the analysis of games and events. I agree it is controversial this statement, but I also see the point. Looking forward to your next piece!


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