The Spanish sporting press reported Monday that Barcelona forward Lionel Messi will not recover from his recent knee injury in time for El Clasico. The looming showdown with Barça’s archrivals, Real Madrid, is set for November 21.
The Argentine ace suffered knee ligament injuries against Las Palmas in late December. While the original prognosis was for eight weeks on the sidelines, recent stories in the Catalan media had suggested that Messi’s recovery had fallen behind schedule.
While thankfully no surgery was required, Messi’s injury, like all knee ligament injuries, was a delicate one. Messi’s initial recovery involved spending a couple of weeks on crutches, and with the Clasico less than three weeks away, he has not yet been able to run consistently without pain.
So while his knee will likely have recovered its strength in time for the Madrid game, Messi himself will still be at least two weeks away from full fitness. Right now the club are reportedly looking at an early December return date for the four-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Luckily for Barcelona fans, it’s still early enough in the season to absorb a few mixed results. Not that Barcelona have shown much sign of faltering in Messi’s absence anyway: In the seven matches in all competition since Messi was injured, Barça have won five, lost one, and drawn one. Along the way, they’ve racked up 15 goals.
The Catalans’ most recent outing – a 2-0 win over Getafe in La Liga – saw Luis Suarez and Neymar both get on the scoresheet. The other two-thirds of Barça’s ‘MSN’ have indeed stepped up in Messi’s absence.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has also handed another opportunity to Munir El Haddadi. The Barcelona youth product was a regular fixture in the side before the arrival of Luis Suarez last year. With Messi out, the 20-year-old, who is a reported transfer target for Everton, has found himself back in the lineup and now has the chance to answer his critics and stake a claim to a future in a Barcelona jersey.
A Clasico without Messi is admittedly a bit of a letdown (except for Real Madrid fans). But it will be interesting to see how the club responds and who steps up on the day to fill the void left in the absence of Messi.
Meanwhile, Barcelona has a Champions League encounter with BATE Borisov on Wednesday this week, before resuming La Liga action against Villarreal on Sunday.