Club football takes a halt as the schedule for International Fixtures arrives. Usually international breaks are pretty boring for football fans as most of its fixtures do not offer the same adrenaline rush that matches of Club football offer. Reason for this? Meaningless friendlies are part of a schedule that have to take place on the name of international football and thus do not have the same level of intensity as compared to the trophy chasing competitiveness that club football. Although, this international break does consists of Euro Cup qualifier matches involving teams like Netherlands battling it out for a place in the next year’s European showdown
Also most of the club coaches despise International Breaks. This is because there are chances of players getting exhausted or even injured for the sake of meaningless friendlies. For instance Sergio Ramos asked to drop out from the team as he still needs time to recover from the shoulder injury that he faced last month. Although, he did play for Real Madrid in the Spanish capital derby against Atletico, the player chose to take a safer side for his recovery with regards to the international fixtures by opting to not join the national team. That is why most club managers aren’t a big fan of their important players leaving the club squad for most of these fixtures.
One club that seems to be suffering most from the injuries is the current Spanish and European Champions FC Barcelona. The team won the treble last season, their second in history – a feat never achieved by any other team ever in this sport. And one of the most important factors for such a magnificent season was the fitness of most of the club’s personnel which was credited to the smart man-management of the players by Luis Enrique. He did enough rotation among the squad at his disposal for the starting eleven in the initial stages of the season which eventually led to almost everybody being fit in the latter stages when there were trophies to be won which all at the end were conquered by the Catalans.
A few months later, the Blaugranas started their path for the new La Liga season and within few weeks of that, they found themselves heavily affected by injuries. Now, Barcelona are facing a transfer ban imposed by FIFA that prohibits them from registering players till January, 2016. So, that means in spite of the purchase of Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan, they will have to wait for 6 months before they can start their careers with their new club. In the midst of all this, Xavi Hernandez departed to a Qatari club named Al Sadd. Pedro Rodriguez in search of more playing time left his boyhood club for the current Premier League Champions Chelsea. And the departure of these two players has put a big hole in their squad depth as the promoted B team players are just not good enough to replace them.
Barcelona have the likes of Rafinha who can play both in midfield and as a forward and the unproven Sergi Roberto in midfield. Other than these two, there were absolutely no cover ups for the regular first team stars such as Iniesta, Messi, and Neymar etc. Basically, all it needed was an injury to an important player to let the team management realize the complexity of their circumstances. And that’s exactly what happened. Bad Luck struck the Catalans as players who didn’t get injured for almost all of the last season started moving towards the sidelines for long spells.
Bravo who was superb as the shot stopper last season got injured in training and his replacement Ter Stegen made his La Liga debut with Barca. But the German was prone to mistakes and conceded a number of goals with the assistance of their own shaky defense. Rafinha Alacantra who Enrique started giving more first team chances looked set to play an important role for the Catalans with the occasional glimpses of his brilliance in dribbling and passing, but he was left ruing his luck as the player got sidelined for around 6 months in total after just 5 minutes of coming on as a substitute against AS Roma. Then followed the injury to left back Jordi Alba as the player suffered from a hamstring problem followed by another neck injury, which kept him out of the team for a period of around 3 weeks. Thomas Vermaelen who found himself more and more in the Catalan groove after recovering from his injury was injured again as he pulled his calf muscle in the match against Atletico. He is now expected to return for Barca’s first match after the break vs. Ray Vallecano. Above all this the Catalans were most affected by the injury to their talisman Lionel Messi.
Lionel Messi started the match against Atletico at Calderon on the bench to score the winning goal of the night. Arguably the best footballer on the planet, Messi played some of his career’s best football last season to lead Barca to the 4 trophies they won along with the help of fellow South American superstars Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr with the fight for the fifth resuming in December at the Club world cup semi-final in Japan. However, the diminutive Argentine was also unfortunate as his name was also added to the long list of injuries that Barca were facing and while the period of recovery was initially expected to be 2-3 weeks actually turned out to be a long spell of around 2 months. Another week later, another crucial member of the team, Andres Iniesta got hurt against Leverkusen. All these injuries eventually left Barca under the support of B team players like Sandro, Munir, Gumbao, Sergi Roberto etc.
Messi and Iniesta are at Barcelona continuing with their recovery from injury. Brazil Football Federation’s appeal to suspend Neymar’s Copa America ban was rejected and thus the player also stayed with the club along with fellow forward Luis Suarez who is also serving a FIFA imposed ban received due to the biting incident in the World Cup.
Luis Enrique will be relieved to have some of his most important players get this window of rest as before this break the Catalans played 7 games in 21 days. He will get the opportunity to reorganize his thoughts, make new plans to bring some strength in the current shaky defense and most importantly, Neymar and Suarez – currently the most important players in the squad will get a much deserved rest as national team exertions would just had added to their plethora of troubles.
Recently one of the officials from the club’s management said in a statement that they will be putting their next pre-season in Europe only and preferably Spain. This was expected as last season’s US tour can also be credited to the trouble the Catalans are facing at the moment. Too much travelling leads to exertion for the players which then results in injuries and tired looking players on the field. This issue looks even more serious when you have a depleted squad and are banned from registering new players into the team.
That is why the club management will be savoring this period of rest for their most important players like Suarez and Neymar who have an additional burden of scoring and creating goals in the absence of Messi and Iniesta. Also, Enrique must be putting in hours making plans to bring this team’s defense back to track as they are breaking new records with every match in conceding goals with the most recent one being that they have now allowed 20 goals in their net in the first 12 games this season – the worst record since 1964/65.
Barca will have a tough time at least till November. Time to utilize this period Lucho!