With two of the three amigos missing, Luis Enrique will need to manufacture a temporary new trident
When Lionel Messi was injured earlier in the season, Luis Enrique had to rely heavily on the duo of Neymar and Luis Suárez. The Brazilian and the Uruguayan, aided by a rotating cast of players on the right wing, dominated the competition and kept Barcelona more than afloat without the final piece of their attacking trident. Since Messi’s return, MSN have been terrorizing opposing defenses with a ton of goals.
However, the recent clashes with Espanyol in the Copa del Rey and the weekend match-up against Athletic Bilbao have left the frontline looking rather thin. Messi will most likely sit out Wednesday’s Copa quarterfinal with Athletic away from home due to the knock he picked up against that same team over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Suárez will be suspended for this match-up and the return leg at the Camp Nou due to his supposed altercation in the tunnel after the contentious affair with Espanyol.
With two of the three amigos missing, Luis Enrique will need to manufacture a temporary new trident if they are to pull out a victory in the Basque Country. Neymar will be on the left or in the center, but who will pair with him?
Unlike when Messi went down the first time, Luis Enrique has a few more options to choose from after Arda Turan and AleixVidal finally became eligible to be registered.
Turan’s versatility as a player allows him to play in the midfield and on the wings in the attack. If the second half of the recent contest against Athletic is any indication, it will most likely be Turan on the right side of the attack, as he was the choice to replace Messi when the latter was substituted at the break.
While he is certainly a step down from the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, it should not be forgotten that he was arguably the best player on an Atletico Madrid side that captured the La Liga title two seasons ago.
If Neymar is chosen to play in the middle and Turan moves over to the left, Vidal could be the player who lines up on the right. His versatility is another asset at the coaching staff’s disposal, and he has already featured this season at both right wing and right back.
Vidal may not be the goalscorer that Barcelona would like on the wing having scored only four goals in 31 appearances for Sevilla last year, but he has already begun his assist tally at Barcelona against Athletic and could give Neymar the freedom to simply worry about finding the back of the net.
Munir El Haddadi
If Vidal is kept on the backline and Turan starts on the right as expected, Munir El Haddadi must believe that his recent Copa del Rey performances have earned him the nod on the left. It was the young Spaniard who knotted twice in the second leg of Barcelona’s match-up with Espanyol to silence the rambunctious neighbors.
While Munir has struggled in La Liga, he has netted four goals this season in the Copa del Rey and is in a five-way tie for the competition lead. With rumors of Nolito and Denis Suárez not going away anytime soon and the addition of Turan and Vidal, Munir will need to make the most of his opportunities if he wants to continue on this season in Catalonia.
Speaking of young Spaniards and rumors, the future of Sandro Ramirez is in serious question, and one must wonder what kind of performance it would take to ensure that he remains a Barcelona player during this current transfer window.
Like Munir, Sandro’s only goals this season have come in the Copa del Rey where he had a hat-trick against CF Villanovense. Last year he served as a super-sub off the bench to great effect, but this season the young attacker has struggled in his eighteen appearances, eight of which were starts.
The one option that Sandro gives Luis Enrique that no other player on this list does is his ability to play in the center. This would allow Neymar to remain on the left and would allow one of Turan, Vidal or Munirto man the right.
Even if Sandro’s time in Catalonia this season is coming to an end, he will still want to have a good showing in any capacity so that he can be loaned or sold to the best possible club that will help him develop.
The final option for Enrique is Sergi Roberto, but this one has become unlikely over the last two days. With Jordi Alba out for about a week and Jeremy Mathieu out as well, the left back position is looking as thin as the attack.
The midfielder turned defender turned attacker turned consummate utility player has thrived everywhere he has played this season, as evidenced by Enrique’s willingness to have him play left-back when Alba was forced off against Athletic over the weekend.
If Luis Enrique does indeed wish to use Roberto on the wing, as he did when Messi was out with injury earlier in the season, expect Adriano to serve in the left back spot.