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El CLÁSICO

Xavi and Barcelona have serious injury issues before El Clásico

With Koundé, Araújo and Bellerín all sidelined, Barcelona and Xavi have big problems at right-back before playing Real Madrid, Bayern and Inter.

Update:
With Koundé, Araújo and Bellerín all sidelined, Barcelona and Xavi have big problems at right-back before playing Real Madrid, Bayern and Inter.
Alex CaparrosGetty

The confirmation that Héctor Bellerín’s calf injury will keep him out for a month has decimated the right-hand side of the Barcelona defence. Bellerín, signed to replace Sergiño Dest, is the only out-and-out right-back at the club, yet he is behind both Ronald Araújo and Jules Koundé in the pecking order, even though it is neither of the two’s preferred position. All three are now sidelined and Sergi Roberto, who is fourth in line, is struggling with a knock on the back of the serious injury he suffered last year.

El Clásico, Bayern and Inter all coming for Barcelona

So, Xavi has a problem. A gaping hole on the right side of his defence ahead of a hectic month of football which includes El Clásico and an in-form Vinicius in direct competition in that exact area of the pitch.

And this won’t be a short-term issue. Araújo will be absent until the end of the year (at least for Barça), while Koundé and Bellerín are expected to be out for a month. As a result, they will miss, amongst others, four big fixtures in October: two potentially decisive Champions League games against Inter, another in the same competition against Bayern Munich and, last but not least, El Clásico.

See also:

A return for Gerard Piqué?

What options does Xavi have at his disposal? The next month will be the time for him to make the best use of his squad, but the Barça legend is running out of bullets.

Plan A – use Sergi Roberto as a conventional right-back, with Eric García and Andreas Christensen in the middle of a back four.

Plan B – field García at right-back, with Gerard Piqué coming in at centre-back and Marcos Alonso on the left.

Plan C – use a left-back (Alejandro Balde, Jordi Alba or Alonso) as a converted right-back if Roberto isn’t fully fit.

Plan D – play with three central defenders (García, Christensen and Piqué) with wing-backs on either side (Roberto, Raphinha or even Ousmane Dembélé on the right; Alonso, Alba or Balde on the left). If Piqué doesn’t even feature in Plan D, it would surely be the final straw for the central defender.

Piqué has played just twice for Barça this season.
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Piqué has played just twice for Barça this season.FERRAN ZUERASDIARIO AS

There are no cards left for Xavi to play at right-back. On top of that, the Barça boss will have to monitor his players’ workloads carefully to ensure no more centre-backs suffer fitness issues. Christensen is somewhat injury-prone and García only recently returned from a knock picked up against Sevilla, which forced him to sit out a couple of games before he returned to action in Munich. Luis Enrique at least helped Xavi out by leaving García out of the Portugal-Spain match in Braga, avoiding the risk of a relapse in his recovery from his recent muscle injury.

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