Club Focus – Barcelona – Xavi facing double La Liga absence

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez could miss the next two La Liga fixtures due to injury and will definitely be absent from Saturday’s game at Mallorca. The highly influential Spaniard was reported to have been feeling some discomfort in his left leg towards the end of last weekend’s match against Athletic Bilbao.

Tests carried out on Tuesday by the club’s medical staff have uncovered a small rupture of the soleus muscle in his lower calf, an injury that is expected to take between seven and ten days to heal properly. Doctors also fear that depending on his recovery time, he could miss next Wednesday’s clash with Valencia at the Mestalla as well.

The news will be a huge blow to the side and especially to Pep Guardiola. The Barca Coach now has four first-team regulars missing for the trip to Mallorca: captain Carles Puyol and goalkeeper Victor Valdes both miss out through injury along with Xavi. Full-back Dani Alves is suspended after picking up a yellow card against Bilbao.

While Barca have just about managed with the likes of Jose Pinto, Sergio Busquets and Eric Abidal deputising in defence, the influence of Xavi will clearly be the biggest hole to fill. The midfielder has been at the heart of Barcelona’s best football so far this season and became the club’s record appearance-holder when he made his 549th appearance against Levante earlier in the campaign.

He has regularly produced truly dominant performances in the middle of the park, racking up huge numbers of passes and periods of possession in the process. The crucial question on everyone’s lips is who will the manager choose to replace him?

Seydou Keita is likely to be his replacement as he appears to be the only like-for-like player in the squad. Used rather sparingly in the league, Keita has made just 22 appearances, with 14 of those coming from the bench. Like many of Barca’s fringe players, the Malian has been involved in all of their cup games, starting six of the eight fixtures. Whether he can make up for the loss of Xavi’s creative spark will be another matter. Xavi has provided an incredible 70 assists already this season, a statistic that pales his goal-scoring contribution of a measly three goals into insignificance.

Interestingly, Keita could bring a different kind of threat to the opposition. Across all competitions, he has a higher goals contribution rate (one goal for every four assists) compared to Xavi (one goal for roughly every 23 assists). Playing alongside Andres Iniesta (one goal for roughly every eight assists) Keita could offer a significant goal-scoring threat from midfield.

With Guardiola likely to select Brazilian Adriano in place of the suspended Alves, a trip to mid-table Mallorca could be ideal for testing midfield replacements before a much sterner examination at Valencia next week.

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