After a short return from an early-season injury in September, Ousmane Dembele will sit out up to four weeks for recovery from a hamstring injury, not related to the early hamstring injury that required surgery, that occurred on Sunday night’s win against Real Sociedad at Anoeta.
The French-man came on as a substitute at the 65th minute to provide a spark for a game that lost its’ fire for the most part. Sociedad took a 2-0 lead when Paulinho cut the lead before the half. Luis Suarez added the tying goal and a third. Messi capped the night with the fourth goal to walk out of Anoeta with a win, the first since 2007.
The injury bug has not been kind to Barca so far. Dembele rejoins the long list of injuries this season including Umtiti, Mascherano, Deulofeu, Iniesta, Semedo, Paco Alcacer, and new man Coutinho.
The loss of Dembele seems minimal since Barcelona went almost three months without the youngster. Valverde has been able to adjust team tactics by rotating players in multiple positions to squeeze out every bit of help needed. Gerard Deulofeu has not seen action since November’s Copa del Rey match against Real Murcia, but has 14 appearances with two goals and three assists. Even though rumors of Andre Gomes’ exit are circulating, Valverde has been able to use him as his right-mid in multiple games. Iniesta has seen been pushed to left-mid. Rakitic and Busquets are in charge of the center mid with exceptional box-to box skills. Valverde has also seen help from Barcelona B man, Jose Arnaiz, who has 3 goals in 5 games for the senior team.
The addition of Paulinho and the confidence of Denis Suarez has helped Barcelona to a 29 unbeaten streak before yesterday’s loss to Catalan rival Espanyol in the Copa Del Rey quarterfinals. Paulinho tallies eight goals and two assists in 26 appearances.
The main pieces for Barca’s success have been intact for the most part this season. Star players in Messi, Suarez, Pique, Busquets, Jordi Alba, and Marc ter Stegen have laid the foundation for Barcelona.
Barcelona has had no trouble creating goal scoring opportunities, tallying 75 goals in all competitions this season. Messi leads team scoring with 22 goals. Luis Suarez is second on the team with 14 goals. While Dembele has been directly involved in three goals this season.
Messi and Co. have a tough battle to keep their hopes of a treble for the third time in the Messi Era. New acquisition, Coutinho, will bring a dynamic presence left empty after Neymar’s departure. Barcelona once again has the pressure on them, something that no other team has including Real Madrid.
Barcelona plays five games in the next three weeks including last night’s loss. The Blaugrana look to have Dembele back by February 20th for the first game of a home and away series against Chelsea for the round of 32 of Champions League.
Although stressing for many Cules, the future is bright for Dembele as he is poised to take the throne after Messi’s departure. Dembele’s upside is definitely worth the wait.