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La Liga: Why Barcelona's Injury Epidemic Could Be of Their Own Doing

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts on the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images
Christopher HeathmanCorrespondent IINovember 21, 2013

Dani Alves has become the latest in a long list of injured Barcelona players and will miss seven-10 days with a muscle injury.

The club's official website revealed that tests carried out on Thursday confirmed the Brazilian suffered a "slight tear of the right leg soleus muscle." The news means he will miss Barca's La Liga clash with Granada and the next Champions League match against Ajax.

Alves, however, is just one of several significant players who have fallen to injury in recent weeks. Goalkeeper Victor Valdes has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a calf injury. Lionel Messi is also likely to be out until the New Year with a hamstring injury suffered in la Blaugrana's 4-1 win away to Real Betis.

If losing their two most important players was not enough, Cristian Tello and Xavi Hernandez are also out of the Catalans' league game with Granada. Spanish winger Tello has suffered ankle ligament damage, while midfielder Xavi is out with a hamstring injury.

Barcelona seem to be under some kind of curse, but that is obviously impossible. It could be simply down to bad luck, as recent European Golden Shoe winner Messi suggests, but such superstition does not really exist.

It could be mere coincidence, but it is more likely there is a more logical explanation: It is all Barcelona's fault. 

More specifically, despite denials from Messi, it could, in fact, all boil down to recent changes involving Barcelona's medical staff which have turned out to be counter-productive.

It started in the summer when Barca let physiotherapist Emili Ricart go when his contract was up. A much-loved member of the medical staff since the playing days of Pep Guardiola, Ricart was famously instrumental in Eric Abidal's recovery after his battle with cancer.

The strange departure of Ricart led to the promotion of Juanjo Brau, who as a result was no longer able to concentrate on individual players such as Messi. His relationship with the Argentine was particularly important because Brau was a constant during a five-year period in which Messi only suffered one injury.

So Barca had a very stable and successful medical set-up which kept everyone happy and fit but are now left with a lengthy list of key players injured. The question is: What were Barcelona thinking?

One departure which was not the fault of the club was Lorenzo Buenaventura's, who left to join Guardiola at Bayern Munich. He was also influential in the constant fitness of Messi, helping the Barca No.10 move on from his injury-plagued days under Frank Rijkaard.

The club have recognised their mistakes, however, with Brau now reportedly being carefully consulted regarding Messi's latest injury.

Barcelona are now in the face of an injury storm which has led to widespread media coverage and criticism over their medical team. Messi's injury was the main catalyst, but the six-week injury to Valdes and the injuries to Xavi, Tello and Alves are also a concern.

Barca have received a small boost with Cesc Fabregas possibly returning against Granada and Jordi Alba returning to training.

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