Barcelona have once again been hit by injuries following the international break, following the news that Andreas Christensen is likely to miss a month of action. The Danish defender has been one of the Blaugrana’s best players this season, but came off with injury after just a quarter of an hour in their 3-1 win over Finland.
It leaves Barcelona short of their first-choice defence as they look to keep Real Madrid at arms’ length in their Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, where they hold a 1-0 lead. Ronald Araujo is also injured currently, but it is hoped that he will be back in time for El Clasico. While Barcelona do have alternatives, few of them are convincing.
MD say the most likely change is that Marcos Alonso replaces Christensen. That was what happened in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, and Alonso put in a surprisingly adept performance in the face of a Madrid onslaught. He has also been used frequently by Xavi Hernandez in central defence for big games.
The next most obvious choice is bringing Sergi Roberto back to right-back, and moving Jules Kounde into the middle of defence with Ronald Araujo. It would leave Roberto up against Vinicius Junior though, something that has not ended well in previous match-ups – Xavi has been keen to keep Araujo against Vinicius whenever possible.
A more natural replacement would be Eric Garcia. He is the only other central defender by trade in the squad that could play with Kounde and Araujo. However it is clear that Xavi has less faith in Garcia than the rest of his defenders, with the former Manchester City man starting just two of the last nine encounters.
It could see a promotion for Chadi Riad from the Barcelona Atletic side. The physically imposing 19-year-old has been in good form for Rafa Marquez this season and has earned his first call-up to the Morocco senior side this international break. He has just played once before though, in the final minutes against Osasuna in November.
The most unlikely option is using Frenkie de Jong as a central defender. The Dutchman has played there before, and at times well, but is an essential part of Barcelona’s midfield. Moving him would be a risk defensively and cause changes further forward too.
It seems that Alonso has the best chance of making a start against Real Madrid at Camp Nou. Time and again Xavi has shown faith in Alonso, whether it be as a central defender or a left-back this season.