With five games to go in the Spanish season, the defending champions have lost two of their starters. During Wednesday’s Copa del Rey final, Barcelona’s Neymar and Jordi Alba picked up injuries that will sideline the pair for a month, dealing a blow to the Catalan’s hope of retaining their La Liga title.
Barcelona enters this weekend’s 34th round four points back of first place Atlético Madrid, but without their two starters along the left side, the 22-time Spanish champions look less likely to overcome both Atleti and second place Real Madrid. Neymar will be sidelined with a left foot contusion, while Alba suffered a muscle tear in his right leg.
The fall off at each position isn’t drastic, but the lack of depth could prove costly over the season’s final month. In attack, Gerardo Martino can choose from Pedro Rodríguez and Alexis Sanchez, the duo having combined for 31 goals this Spanish season. At the back, Brazilian Adriano can resume his place at fullback, where he’s made 22 all competition appearances this campaign.
Perhaps the real relevance of these injuries will be on the World Cup. By the time each player is healthy, they should be able to join their national teams as they begin preparation for this summer’s tournament. If, however, either suffers a setback, their national teams could be forced to adjust.
Neymar is the key player for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil team, with host nation’s side among the favorite to win this summer’s tournament. Alba is the first choice left back for Spain, a team hoping to defending its first world title.
VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe
Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.
Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.
But the appeals had no effect.
In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.
The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.
In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.
Following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Southampton, in which Pardew’s side saved his job (for the time being), the 55-year-old Eagles boss and former player chose the first bright moment, Palace’s first Premier League win since Sept. 24, to hit out at the club’s new American owners with a scathing assessment of the footballing prowess, or perhaps lack thereof — quotes from the Guardian:
“The chairman got a bit edgy this week, as you’d expect. We have a lot of serious investors at the club who perhaps don’t know a lot about football so the chairman has been defending me.
“I always think as a manager at any level, particularly in the modern era, expect the sack. Just expect it; it’s coming at some stage, so just do your job as best you can. Every week, that’s what I try to do.
“Sometimes it’s hard to dress up six defeats when you’re the owner of the club and you have investors. Obviously there are things he’s got no control over but he’s tried to offer me all the assistance that he could. He’s been brilliant for me and I just want to say thank you to him really.”
With various reports linking Sam Allardyce and Roberto Mancini to a job which he still holds, it’s understandable that Pardew would be slightly on edge, quick to thump his chest and restake his claim as the right man for the job, but perhaps alienating and borderline embarrassing the new investors, who are now responsible for signing your paychecks, wouldn’t have been my go-to move.