Apr 17, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT
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.
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