Barcelona’s 32-year old Chilean goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, will be out of action for three weeks with a calf injury. Bravo has been one of the key components of a highly-improved Barca defense that saw the team taking in much less goals than before. A calf injury incurred during a training session on Monday rendered the goalkeeper unfit to play for at least three weeks. Bravo will miss the crucial clash against Atletico Madrid on Saturday and will miss out on Barca’s matches against Levante, Celta Vigo and Las Palmas following that.
His place between the posts will be taken up by the 23-year German import from Borussia Munchengladbach, Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Ter Stegen will be making his La Liga debut on Saturday against Atletico Madrid having performed brilliantly for Barca in the Copa Del Rey and UEFA Champions Cup fixtures. His exceptional saves against Bayern Munich at the Alliance stadium prevented the German giants from scoring at least three goals that would have made life very difficult for his the team In the Champions League.
Meanwhile with the UEFA transfer ban on Barcelona over, the Catalans are free to find a replacement for the livewire Pedro in the midfield. Pedro who featured in as many as 204 appearances for the Blaugrana since 2008, has left a gaping hole in the midfield with his move to Chelsea. Arda Turan the brilliant midfield import from Atletico Madrid is expected to fill that space, but he is unlikely to feature for the Catalan giants at least until January. Barcelona also have the 25-year old forward Sofiane Feghouli under their radar. Feghouli is considered Valencia’s best player., but his contract with his club is yet to expire and some time away. Meanwhile Luis Enrique might try playing young turks like Munir El-Haddadi and Sandro Ramírez, both products of Barcelona’s youth club. Enrique will have to bank on these two youngsters to perform by January failing which he will seriously have to look around for a suitable replacement for the invaluable Pedro Rodriguez.
Gerard Pique humiliated
Club rivalry got the better of patriotic feelings when, shockingly, ace Barcelona defender Gerard Pique was booed by Real Madrid fans while he featured in a home friendly against Switzerland for his country, Spain. The fan behaviour is being attributed to some remark Pique had made about Cristiano Ronaldo some days earlier and also for his views on Catalan independence. Fearing that the jeering of the Spanish back could take a whole new level, authorities have decided to move the coming friendly match between England and Spain from the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid to a much smaller venue at faraway Alicante.
The Bernabeu stadium is the home of Real Madrid CF and can hold up to 81000 spectators while the one at Alicante can take just 29000. Spanish teammates have come out strongly in support and sympathy of Pique and it is indeed heartening to see that one of the most vocal among them is Sergio Ramos, his bitter on-field rival defender from Real Madrid.