Why Munir Is Ideal Replacement for Suspended Neymar at Barcelona

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IMarch 6, 2015

Munir's continued involvement in the first team will bring its reward.
Munir's continued involvement in the first team will bring its reward.Associated Press

Munir el Haddadi looks likely to come in for Neymar for Barcelona's match against Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

It's a wise move by manager Luis Enrique to keep the youngster involved and ward off any thoughts about moving on loan anywhere during the summer.

Munir burst onto the scene in a blaze of glory at the beginning of the season, and a debut goal in the opener vs. Elche promised much.

Since then, the manager has used him sparingly, choosing to play him just once for the full 90 minutes in a Copa del Rey tie earlier this yearironically against Elche.

What may be influencing Enrique's thoughts on this occasion is Munir's sterling performance against Rayo back in October of last year.

Playing for just under an hour, the 19-year-old managed an assist and was generally in amongst the action throughout his time on the pitch. Indeed, debut aside, it was one of his better performances of the season.

Can Munir produce a similarly impressive performance this weekend as the last time against Rayo?
Can Munir produce a similarly impressive performance this weekend as the last time against Rayo?Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Playing on the right-hand side of a front three, Munir was in direct combat with Emiliano Insua and had space aplenty given that Gael Kakuta was pushed much further forward for the Lightning and Roberto Trashorrasas is his wontwas firefighting all over the pitch.

We should expect Munir to begin on the opposite flank in the return up against a right-back in Tito who hasn't been in the best form this season.

Per WhoScored.com, his match ratings have barely risen above a score of seven, although two of his best performances have come in the last three games.

If Munir can get at him in the early stages, then we could see profit from the left channel. Almost exclusively right-footed, Tito won't want the youngster coming inside.

The absences of both Ze Castro and Raul Baena, after picking up their fifth yellows of the season against Levante, leave them extremely light in that particular area.

Munir's penchant for finding space in between the lines will be manna from heaven for Lionel Messi in particular.

The cross-field pass from Messi to Neymar that we have seen so often this season, including last time out at Villarreal, could garner huge success for the home side.

Munir is adept at making similar runs to the Brazilian, and if he is able to escape Tito's shackles, it should bring immediate reward.

As long as he doesn't snatch at any chances that come his way, as he did on the odd occasion when keen to impress earlier in the season, then there is no reason why this game cannot provide the platform for Munir to force himself back into Enrique's thoughts.

Munir's rise has been slow and deliberate.
Munir's rise has been slow and deliberate.David Ramos/Getty Images

Although he wouldn't be expected to face Real Madrid in a fortnight, the match against Eibar in the next round of fixtures represents another game where Munir has a real chance to get some more first-team minutes under his beltprovided he shows his true colours against Rayo.

As Paul Bryan of UEFA.com noted a year or so ago, Barca have one of the game's future stars.

Pedro Rodriguez may feel aggrieved at being seemingly overlooked again, but Enrique has bigger fish to fry later in the season and the Canary Islander will likely play a fuller part.

In the meantime, using Munir's raw talent should do wonders for the player's own confidence. Barca B are enduring a frankly horrific season and currently occupy one of the four relegation places in the Liga Adelante, per ESPN FC.

A few games here or there is a studious way to manage Munir's career so that both he and Barca reap the rewards in the coming months.

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