As FC Barcelona prepare to host Levante hoping to extend their winning run to four games in La Liga, they must keep in mind that they have three games in a space of six days. The Blaugrana will need to make use of their full squad if they are to keep the players fresh in this tough run of fixtures. At such a time, the injury to Barcelona’s ’12th man’ Rafinha comes as a major blow. We look at three players who can replace him.
Rafinha will be out for up to six months after tearing his ACL in a poor challenge from Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan. The defensive injury crisis had already stretched the Barca squad, and with injury ruling out Rafinha, the options up-front are also very limited for Luis Enrique.
Following the departure of Pedro and the transfer ban, which entails that the club cannot register new signings Aleix Vidal or Arda Turan, Barcelona have a decision to make as to who will come from the bench, or will be drafted in the starting XI in the future to keep the players fresh as they play three games in six days, having already played in midweek in Rome.
1. Munir El Haddadi
One of Luis Enriquea s first acts after becoming the manager of FC Barcelona in 2014-15 season was to draft Munir in the first team squad. The talented winger of Moroccan roots duly rewarded his manager’s faith by putting in a string of wonderful performances that saw him nominated for the 2014 Golden Boy award for the a Best Young Playera in Europe. However, as the season wore on, his form started to dip and he eventually faded away.
The return of Luis Suarez from suspension in October saw him being sent back to the Barca B squad. This resulted in a further loss of morale for the youngster. He is yet to play a single game in the league for Barca this season.
Munir is blessed with blistering pace, and a bewitching dribbling ability. His aerial prowess is also well known. The attacker likes to cut inside from the flanks and at the tender age of 19, is only bound to improve if handled in the right way. The departure of Pedro and the injury to Rafinha presents an opportunity for him to relaunch his career at the Camp Nou.
2. Sandro Ramirez
Like Pedro, 20 year old Sandro was born in the Canary Islands before joining the La Masia. The youngster had a flying start to his first team career, scoring the winner against Villareal on his debut in August 2014. Sandro was used as a late substitute by Luis Enrique 12 times last season and has made two late substitute appearances this season.
With his pace and trickery, Sandro proves to be a decent impact player. His career graph, however, has been rather erratic. When he first started out, his performances for the club were electric, but eventually faded out. The Las Palmas born winger will need to show a lot more consistency if he has to upstage Munir for the slot vacated by Rafinha.
3. Gerard Gumbau
An attacking midfielder by trade, 20 year old Gumbau joined Barca B in the 2014-15 season after rising through the ranks at Girona. The youngster was touted to be one of their hottest prospects, having made 31 appearances for Girona before moving to Barca B.
The Spaniard is a tall and skillful attacking midfielder who is also a free-kick expert. While Gumbau can come into the squad, it is highly unlikely he will be given a lot of chances considering that he has been plying his trade with the Barca B team which has now been relegated from the second tier of Spanish football.