Barca new-boys set for January baptism of fire after injury blows
Despite having had a transfer ban imposed on them for breaching rules regarding the capturing of international players below the age of 18, treble champions Barcelona snapped up both Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan this year during the Winter and Summer windows.
Both La Liga stars, signed from Sevilla and Atletico Madrid respectively, have to wait until January 2016 to make their debuts due to the club’s punishment but, with serious injuries occurring to key players, they could be set for a baptism of fire.
Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer Messi was again instrumental in helping the club clinch La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies last campaign, while midfield leader Iniesta was a key component in Luis Enrique’s side as usual. But the club are now 3/1 with Coral to retain their European crown without with the dynamic duo.
Club captain Iniesta was forced off in a Champions League victory over Bayer Leverkusen and was later revealed to have suffered a hamstring injury. The skipper joins Messi on the sidelines for a potentially lengthily spell, with the Argentine attacker having been ruled out for up to two months with serious knee trouble.
Such devastating injury blows come after midfielder Rafinha Alcantara also picked up a knock, while former Arsenal centre back Thomas Vermaelen continues to be plagued by set-backs, meaning the club’s title ambitions may rest on their fresh faces making awaited bows in January.
Catalonia native Vidal arrived from Sevilla for a reported £16m after helping his former club secure back-to-back Europa League successes, returning to Barcelona after previously featuring for their Under-14s as a youngster.
“After the birth of my daughter this is the most important day of my life. I’m back at what used to be my home,” said the 25-year-old wideman following his arrival.
After slipping into second-place behind La Liga leaders Villarreal recently, with El Clasico rivals only a point adrift, the Nou Camp’s current crop of stars must main their position as one of the front-runners before next year, when Enrique can regroup (odds-on 8/11 for title).
Formerly a constant menace to Barca, Turkey international Turan also made the move from Atleti to the Catalan giants this summer, and will undoubtedly be a key aspect of his current club’s hopes of retaining any of their silverware this term.
The feisty forward was a vital part of Diego Simeone’s Atletico squad that made history by dethroning Barca and Madrid to claim the country’s top-flight crown in 2014, also helping to reach the Champions League final.
Previous allegiances will have to be forgotten next year, though, with Turan set to endure a tough start to his playing career at the Nou Camp as one of Enrique’s attacking vocal points, with a huge burden potentially being placed on his shoulders.
It won’t take long for Turan to come face-to-face with his old teammates after making his maiden Catalan outing, with Barca hosting Atletico at the end of January, following tough clashes with Athletic Club and Malaga, who recently held Real to a scoreless draw.
Without Iniesta and Messi, Barca may struggle to keep up the pace with Rafael Benitez’s Galacticos, a resurgent Atletico and surprise package Villarreal, but both Turan and Vidal could see themselves become the champions’ January saviours upon making their long-awaited Barcelona bows.