Can Barcelona cope Without Messi?

Barcelona returned to the top of the league table after beating Sevilla 4-2 at the Camp Nou. But the victory was bitter sweet as it was overshadowed by Lionel Messi’s injury. The 31-year-old fell to the ground following a tussle with Sevilla’s Franco Vazquez and, as his right hand tried to cushion the landing, his elbow appeared to buckle. An official statement from the club read: “Tests carried out on Leo Messi have confirmed that he has a fracture of the radial bone in his right arm. He will be out for approximately three weeks.”

With the El Clasico fast approaching, Barcelona’s number ten is set to miss out. But that is just one of the games he is likely to miss as the reigning La Liga champions are recovering from an average start to the season. In the Champions League, there is also the double header against Inter Milan which falls within the period the club’s talisman will be missing in action.

Barcelona have usually been heavily reliant on their captain who has also been in sublime form this season. He has already been Barcelona’s best player so far this term. Receiving the Player of the Month award shortly before kickoff at the Camp Nou on Saturday is testament to that.

Even for the short time he was on the pitch before the injury, he had already scored and bagged an assist. That’s how influential he is. But his early exit did not stop the team from getting the job done on the night.

Frenchman Ousmane Dembele came in to complete the front line and two more strikes, one each from Luis Suarez and former Sevilla captain Ivan Rakitic put the game beyond reach for Pablo Machin’s men. That was despite Pablo Sarabia and Luis Muriel twice reducing the deficit to two for Sevilla, either side of a sweeping volley from Rakitic.

Speaking about the impact of Messi’s absence on the team, manager Ernesto Valverde stated:

“It is clear it is a blow.

“We know what he gives us and we know what he does to the opposition.

“We have to prepare ourselves, it is clear we are going to notice the loss of Messi but we have players that can cover,” he concluded.

It’s nothing short of what he is expected to say. After all, football is a team sport and no one player should be indispensable to the team. But the Argentine is not just another player. He has been the team’s go-to man for goals so far. On days when the team fails to score, he also pops up with the needed strike to prevent a loss as was the case against Valencia before the international break.

All the same, the team has enough quality to be able to readjust. One of the positives is that the front men are all scoring goals. Philippe Coutinho is in good form. Luis Suarez has also found his scoring boots netting four times in nine league games. With Messi out, the responsibility is now fully on him to deliver the goods. That’s pressure he should welcome.

Apart from the meeting with Real Madrid, all the games within this period of the captain’s absence are winnable. I mean, let’s face it, Inter Milan are not what they used to be. Despite coming from behind to beat Tottenham in their opening Champions League encounter, they were behind for most of the game.

And yes, they do come into the game having had a moral-boosting victory against bitter rivals AC Milan in the Serie A, but facing Barcelona is a different kettle of fish, especially at Camp Nou. And even for the return trip to Italy on November 6, Valverde’s experience in the loss to Roma last season will mean he is better prepared for this one. The Blaugrana remain favorites.

On the domestic front, Barca face Rayo Vallecano after the Real Madrid game. That too is a winnable fixture even without the talisman. Los Blancos’ poor run is also good news.

All in all, like the manager has said, the team should be able to cope without the five-time Ballon d’Or and last season’s Golden Boot winner. They have to, after all he will not be there forever.


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