Barcelona go into Saturday’s La Liga match against Deportivo Alavés in the middle of their worst injury crisis in recent memory, with eight first team players ruled out for this weekend’s clash.
Marc-André ter Stegen, Gavi, Ferran Torres, Alejandro Balde, João Félix, Raphinha, Sergi Roberto and Marcos Alonso are all without the medical clearance at the moment, with Ferran, Balde, Félix, Raphinha and Roberto all going down in the last couple of weeks with muscle and/or ligament issues of various degrees.
Xavi Hernández was asked about the number of recent injuries in the squad in a press conference on Friday, and the coach had a very simple explanation: Barça had to play too many games in January.
The Blaugrana played a total of nine matches in a span of 28 days to begin the new year, with the first seven all away from home and two of those in Saudi Arabia for the Spanish Super Cup, with long trips to and from the Middle East also added to the mix.
According to Xavi all the travel and the lack of significant breaks in the schedule was the cause of all the injuries, and the boss defended his coaching and medical staffs for the work they do in trying to prevent injuries.
“The trips have accumulated, many games away from home, little time to rest. Playing every three days you can hardly train. It has been the worst schedule. No team in Europe or the world has had this schedule and hence the explanation for the injuries. But during the season we haven’t had that many. But the staff are doing all they can to help the players, we need to what we can to prevent injuries. Sometimes we have phoned the Federation to see if we can get an extra day’s rest. It’s difficult.”
Barça are not the only team suffering with injuries across Europe’s top leagues, and not enough study has been done to show the effect that the long pause caused by the pandemic followed by an instant return to a very busy schedule for club and country has had in players’ bodies over the last three years.
Maybe more can be done in training to reduce risk of injuries, maybe the warm-up sessions before games could be improved, maybe Xavi could have rotated his team a little more to diminish the risk. Or maybe this was bound to happen anyway to human beings who were subjected to a level of physiological stress they hadn’t experienced before.
Whatever the case is Barça are missing basically half their squad due to injuries. And they must find a way to protect those who remain, or any goals Xavi has for his final four months in charge cannot be achieved.