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.
Gareth Bale after winning second UCL title with Real: “We deserve it”
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the match-clinching penalty kick after 120 minutes couldn’t separate Real and Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday in Milan.
Sergio Ramos scored an early goal before Yannick Carrasco equalized late, and it took penalty kicks to separate Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Antoine Griezmann missed a penalty kick early in the second half, and Juanfran was the only player to miss in kicks.
Here’s how kicks played out:
Real Madrid — Lucas Vasquez scores
Atletico Madrid — Griezmann scores
RM — Marcelo scores
AM — Gabi scores
RM — Gareth Bale scores
AM — Saul scores
RM — Ramos scores
AM — Juanfran hits the post
RM — Ronaldo scores
Chippy was the name of the game early, and Atleti clearly wanted to do whatever it took to perturb and even wound Real.
Jan Oblak made a fantastic instinctive save on a sixth minute free kick from Gareth Bale that Casemiro redirected on frame.
Real’s Dani Carvajal picked up an 11th minute yellow card for a late slide tackle on Antoine Griezmann.
The opener came in the 15th minute, as Gareth Bale flicked Toni Kroos’ header onto the doorstep and Ramos ever-so-slightly redirected the chance across the line. He may have also been offside, but the goal counts.
The 33rd minute found Griezmann trying his luck on goal, as Keylor Navas caught the ball for his first real save of the day. Griezmann was firing at will, though the majority of his chances were off frame.
It stayed 1-0 into the break, but changed soon afterwards.
4 – Sergio Ramos is the 4th defender to score in two different #UCL/European Cup finals (Gemmel, Phil Neal and Vasovic). Courage. #uclfinal
Savic just missed being the toe to Diego Godin and Griezmann’s tic-tac when his left-footed tap went wide of the frame in the 55th minute.
Saul knifed a shot wide from the center of the box with a fantastic athletic shot, as Atleti kept control of the play but not the scoreboard.
Real countered with a rare chance in the 70th minute, but Oblak stopped an onrushing Benzema point blank to keep the deficit 1-0.
Cristiano Ronaldo was fairly anonymous for most of the match, and saw Oblak stop his first real shot in the 78th minute. Gareth Bale then tried a cheeky finish that failed when perhaps an easy shot would’ve done the trick. Would it haunt them?
Sure enough, Atleti dialed up an equalized moments later when Carrasco slid onto the end of Juanfran’s cross to make it 1-1 in the 80th.
We headed to extra time, where an advantage was distinctly in Atletico Madrid’s hands. Diego Simeone had used just one substitution to Real’s three, as Zinedine Zidane exhausted his options in trying to close out his rivals.
The first 15 minutes saw Atleti have some success working down the right side, but Real had the better of the dangerous chances aside from Griezmann flashing an overhead kick high off a corner, the last act of the frame.
The second segment was just as Real-framed, and several chances fell to a trigger shy Lucas. Aside from more silliness from Pepe, the only conclusion was penalty kicks.
In celebration, Carrasco raced toward a pitch side suite and into the arms and lips of what we presume is his partner for a gift that must count as much as a few dozen roses (but probably smelled much worse).
Frankly, Antoine Griezmann embodied the Atletico Madrid attack in the first half, so it was no surprise when he stepped up to the penalty spot early in the second half.
Fernando Torres had won a penalty kick from Pepe after the Portuguese back stamped on his ankle in the 46th minute, and Greizmann got Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas going the wrong direction before cranking the ball off the bar.