Few clubs in the world can lose a key player for a month and still be fine. However, Barcelona separates itself from the rest thanks to its deep roster of elite talent.
According to the team's official site, Neymar will miss three or four weeks with "sprained peroneal tendons in his right ankle." While this is bad enough to keep him out of a few league matches and the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, things certainly could be worse.
The Brazilian mentioned the situation to his fans on his Instagram account, translated by Inside Spanish Football:
What a scare! At that time I thought it could be a serious injury, I thought about my plans for 2014 … But Jesus, again, was with me and it was just a scare. I want to thank everyone who prayed for me and don’t worry. I’m going to do everything right and will be back soon. We are together.
When Neymar first went down, there was a thought that he could be out for the season and possibly more. There were certainly more than a few Brazil fans who were concerned about the World Cup set to take place in the summer.
However, a month-long absence is something that both he and the club should be able to overcome with ease.
Obviously, Barcelona cannot afford to drop any points while competing for a La Liga title. They begin the second half of the season tied with Atletico Madrid with 50 points in 19 matches, and even a draw could end up being devastating.
Fortunately, the upcoming schedule features few chances for disappointment. As Fox Soccer Trax points out, Barca will face Levante quite a few times in this stretch:
Worth noting: Barcelona play Levante Saturday in La Liga, then twice more in Copa in the next two midweeks— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) January 16, 2014
This is good news for Barcelona, as they have beaten Levante in nine out of the last 10 matches with a 2011 draw being the only exception. In fact, Levante has only one win over Barcelona in their last 31 competitions, according to Bet365.
While there are a few more difficult battles over the next month—including a road contest at Sevilla—this will be yet another chance for Barca to show off their depth.
WhoScored.com points out that Neymar was useful in creating opportunities for teammates:
Neymar: Only Cesc Fábregas (10) has picked up more assists than @neymarjr (8) in La Liga this season— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 17, 2014
Cesc Fabregas should continue his strong play up front, but the offense will certainly be missing playmaking options. Then again, that might not be needed going forward.
Over the past few months, the club has been without four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi. A player who scored 96 league goals over the past two years has only made 10 starts in La Liga. His return should help boost the offense regardless of who is playing around him.
Meanwhile, the attack has shown the ability to succeed even with lesser-known players. Even without a big contribution from Messi, Barcelona are tied with Real Madrid for the most goals in the league at the halfway point.
Will Barcelona lose a match without Neymar?
Guys like Alexis Sanchez and Pedro have stepped up and proved that they can be relied upon in this high-scoring attack. With Messi back in full form—he scored twice against Getafe in his first start since the injury—and other players contributing at a high level, finishing should not be a problem.
In reality, there are only a handful of opponents in the world who would be able to match Barcelona offensively. One that could cause some problems is Manchester City, who will host the Spanish giants on Feb. 18 in the Champions League Round of 16.
According to Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sport, however, Neymar should be fit by then:
Neymar will recover in time to be available for Champions clash vs Manchester City— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) January 17, 2014
Worst-case scenario would be that the 21-year-old forward is forced to sit against Manchester City, but Barca would certainly have him back by the second leg on March 12.
As good as Neymar is, the club has the tools necessary to survive and even thrive in this stretch without him. All that matters is that he is able to return healthy in a month and contribute at a high level for the final stages of the season.
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