Barcelona may have an issue on their hands. In the Catalan club’s 2-0 victory over Almeria, the storyline would be the apparent injury picked up by star Lionel Messi.
Messi was subbed off after only 28 minutes of play and it was soon reported on FCBarcelona.com that the 26-year-old had suffered a thigh muscle injury. More tests will be conducted tomorrow, but there is already a bit of a panic over how the next few weeks will play out.
With the Argentine possibly out for the club’s next match against Celtic in the Champions League, manager Tata Martino will have to look for other options.
The match against Celtic will be much more important than normal after the Scottish side defeated Barcelona last season at Celtic Park by the score of 2-1.
In this article, we will take a look at four players at Barcelona who could step in for Lionel Messi and decide who the best choice is to do so.
Note that all statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
Pedro is just one of the options that Barcelona has to step in for Lionel Messi, and his recent form suggests that he could be up for it.
The 26-year-old winger has already scored five goals this season and has given two assists, showing that he has put his scoring boots back on after a disappointing season last year.
Pedro also recently scored a wonderful hat-trick in Barcelona’s 4-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano, which had fans believing the Spaniard was back at his best. However, scoring goals is not enough to believe that Pedro should be the man to step in for Messi.
Though he has been more trustworthy in front of goal this year, Pedro is still very much a winger.
He loves to get wide and cut inside, and he has a knack for finding chances at the far post. Asking Pedro to play through the middle would not be a wise idea, as he has never really showed that he is capable of featuring as a center forward.
Tata Martino should just wave Pedro off as an option.
Alexis Sanchez has repaid Barcelona’s patience this season by showing that he can be a dynamic player for the Catalan club. He has already scored two goals this year and continues to be a headache for opposing defenses.
Sanchez is a much more creative attacker than Pedro, and he is able to be more direct when going forward. But like his fellow winger, Sanchez isn’t really the man to stand in for Messi.
The Chilean is also too much of a winger and is at his best when cutting into the box. Sanchez stakes his name on being a hard working player when tracking back, and his contribution would be wasted by playing him in the middle of the park.
Though Sanchez has the creativity to play as a center forward, he lacks the qualities of a striker. Like Pedro, Sanchez just isn’t the man for the job.
If there is anyone who should be the first choice to step in for Lionel Messi, it should be Neymar.
The Brazilian is a pure goal scorer and knows how to beat a defense. He has played as a striker before and is very comfortable in the center of the pitch.
Neymar may have only scored two goals this season but don’t let that fool you. The 21-year-old is the best scoring option Barcelona has besides Messi. His direct style of play and eye for goal would make him the best man for the job.
However, Neymar has only played on the left wing since joining Barcelona, which could be a sign that Martino only wants the Brazilian to be used on the flank this year. He is still learning the Barcelona system, and Martino may be reluctant to change his position this early.
He has not used Neymar in the middle of the attack and didn’t even bring on the Brazilian when Messi left the match against Almeria with his injury.
Though Neymar seems to make the best sense to replace Messi, Martino might not think so. Losing Neymar on the wing would be asking someone else to step up in his place, and that might not be what Martino wants to do at this point in the season.
As surprising as it sounds, don’t expect Neymar to play as a striker against Celtic.
It seems we are back to square one. Last season, when Messi was forced out of matches, it was Cesc Fabregas who took his place. This is likely what will happen again.
When Messi was taken off against Almeria, it was Fabregas who pushed forward in his place. There seemed to be no debating the move; it came quickly and the Catalan midfielder was ready to make the switch.
Fabregas has been in terrific form this season, with six assists and a goal already under his belt. He may not be the attacker that Messi is, but he is a fantastic creator.
Playing Fabregas in Messi’s place will allow Neymar to continue on the left wing. The duo will likely pair up in this way against Celtic, but don’t expect it to be so easy.
Missing a player like Messi is never something that you can easily fix. Barcelona will feel the loss of Messi against Celtic, but they still have the quality to overcome their opponents at Celtic Park.
Who should take over for Messi against Celtic? Will Barcelona be able to win without their Argentine ace? Leave your thoughts and comments below!