FC Barcelona’s injury problems at the right-back slot multiplied when Dani Alves joined new signing Douglas on the treatment table during the opening day win over Athletic Bilbao. While Douglas is out for two months since the pre-season friendly towards the end of July, Alves will be out for a month due to an injury to the groin. We look at three players who FC Barcelona can deploy to replace him at right-back.
The defensive crisis at Barca keeps getting worse with Gerard Pique suspended for four games following a red card in the Atheltic Bilbao tie in the Spanish Super Cup which the Blaugrana lost 5-1 on aggregate. FC Barcelona have also lost the services of right-back Dani Alves for a month along with that of back-up right-back Douglas as well as Adriano.
With the first home game of the new league season on Sunday against Malaga, Luis Enrique must decide who will be starting at the right back slot.
1 – Sergi Roberto
Our first candidate is Sergi Roberto. The promising midfielder is now 23 years of age. It seems unlikely that he will break into the FC Barcelona team anytime soon. However, he was deployed in the last game for the club at right-back when Dani Alves limped off with a groin problem. Roberto took this opportunity seriously and put on a fantastic display.
He made the most crosses into the area with a total of 4, the most by any Barca player in the match. Roberto was also the most combative player in the game among both teams, with the Spaniard attempting 4 tackles in the game.
Given his assured display against Bilbao, Luis Enrique should have no problem in asking Roberto to fill in for Dani Alves once again.
2 – Javier Mascherano
Mascherano has been playing at the center-back position for FC Barcelona for sometime now, despite starting his career as a defensive midfielder. The Argentine’s passing range comes in handy with the Catalans looking to build from the back. However, with the requirement switching to the right side of the defence, Mascherano can be a candidate to be appointed there. Especially since the former Liverpool man has played as a right-back for the English side, as well as for Argentina in the past.
Mascherano may not bring the same attacking swerve as Dani Alves or Sergi Roberto would have been expected to, but he will be a solid presence with the ability to pick out passes from the right side.
His work rate will also come in handy for a fullback. However, with Pique out, it remains to be seen if Enrique decides to shift his other center-back to the right side as well.
3 – Jordi Alba
FC Barcelona can also decide to put Alba at right back, in an inverted wingback role. The central defensive partnership of Mathieu and Mascherano, with Vermaelen at left-back can be tried out. However, this will again, involve a lot of shifting in the central defence, with Mascherano having partnered Vermaelen at the central defensive position. With so many changes in defence, it would be unwise to break the central partnership that ultimately managed to keep a clean sheet for Blaugrana last week, having shipped a mammoth 9 goals in their first 3 competitive games.
However, what cannot be ruled out is that Alba can be expected to offer plenty going forward and defensively from the right side and Vermaelen will, in all likelihood, be a solid left-back. Matheiu, who was impressive last season, can partner Mascherano.
And if none of this works out, Enrique can always deploy the 3-4-3 formation considering that Barcelona has been using Alves and Alba more as wingers than fullbacks or even wingbacks in 4 at the back formation anyway. A defensive midfielder, Busquets, used to drop deep. Hence the three can remain behind, and the 4 in midfield solves the problem.
It remains to be seen what Enrique will do, but one can be rest assured that the former FC Barcelona captain will come up with a solution good enough to get a win for the club in their opening home league game.