At the conclusion of the first seven rounds of La Liga games, Barcelona are sitting fourth in the league standings with a return of five wins and two defeats from their games thus far.
They are just a solitary point off table toppers Villarreal and are tied on points with Real Madrid and Celta Vigo, who are second and third respectively. Meanwhile, 2014 Spanish champions Atletico Madrid are in fifth with two points behind the Catalans.
The table doesn’t raise any alarms for the Barcelona and their fans as they remain in touch with Los Blancos and Los Rojiblancos – two teams likely to be the title challengers come the end of the season.
However, things are not as rosy as they seem from a glimpse at the league table.
Barcelona are without Lionel Messi and will not be able to count on his services until late November, after he went off injured in a league match against Las Palmas at the Camp Nou. They are also without the services of Rafinha Alcantara who came off worse in a challenge from behind by Radja Nainggolan of Roma in their Champions League opening fixture. The injury turned out to be an anterior cruciate ligament tear, ruling the Brazil international out for a minimum of six months.
Andres Iniesta is another casualty in the early season as he suffered a hamstring injury and has been ruled out of action for about a month.
Now, all these injuries would not have mattered in a normal season. But this is a far from normal season for the reigning Spanish and European Champions. They are still reeling under a FIFA-imposed two-transfer window ban on registering new players and the sanction remains in effect until the January transfer window.
The ban means that the club will not be able to count on their summer signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal. The teakm’s midfield is running on empty. They only have Sergio Busquets and Croatia international Ivan Rakitic of the established midfielders left in the squad. Javier Mascherano had to be shoe horned into the midfield to compensate for the lack of personnel and it didn’t come off well as the Catalans lost to Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in their last league encounter. Sergio Roberto has shown himself to be a better fit at right-back than in midfield.
And that’s it for the options that Luis Enrique has of the regular first teamers.
However the situation, although very bleak for the Catalans, is not beyond them – at least not yet.
Enrique has called upon Gerard Gumbau from Barcelona B into the first team as well as Juan Camara. He has surprisingly not called upon the services of Sergi Samper, who has been always marked out to be the next big thing to come out of La Masia.
Samper deserves a chance to prove himself with the first team. Apart from him, the club will be able to welcome Turan and Vidal in about two months time. Add to it the fact that most of their injured regulars will be back by January and they may not need at all to break the bank in the winter.