Injured Barcelona travel to Mallorca with a hole in the defense

BARCELONA, Spain — When Xavi Hernández oversaw the remodeling of Barcelona’s squad this summer, the coach made sure he was so well covered at right-back that his club could afford to loan out the American defender Sergiño Dest at AC Milan.

But after a series of injuries decimated Barcelona during the international break, Xavi could have a huge hole in his defense ahead of Sunday’s fixture at Mallorca.

Jules Koundé, Ronald Araújo and Héctor Bellerín, who have played at right-back this season, are all out indefinitely. Koundé and Araújo, who can also play as centre-backs, were injured while playing for France and Uruguay respectively in preparation matches for the World Cup in November. Bellerín injured his left leg while training for Barcelona.

That leaves Barcelona waiting to see if veteran Sergi Roberto can recover from a muscle problem that sidelined him for three weeks in time for the trip to the Balearic Islands.

If not, Xavi might be forced to set up a player with little or no experience at right-back, sign a player from Barcelona’s youth team or choose to play with. three centre-backs and two full-backs.

Barcelona will also be without midfielder Frenkie de Jong and striker Memphis Depay after they were both injured while playing for the Netherlands. Neither has been a first-choice player for Xavi this season.

Among the injuries, Araújo’s appears to be the most serious. The 23-year-old defender underwent surgery this week in Finland to repair a right thigh abductor muscle he damaged in Uruguay’s 1-0 loss to Iran on Friday.

Over the next three weeks, Barcelona will face two Champions League group games against Inter Milan and a clásico against Real Madrid on October 16.

The only good news for Xavi is that Robert Lewandowski has returned fully fit from his time with Poland. The striker leads the Spanish league with eight goals in six games.

Mallorca, coached by Mexican Javier Aguirre, have lost 12 of Barcelona’s last 13 visits to their stadium. His only win during that streak came in 2009 with Barcelona already crowned league champions.

Karim Benzema is back for Real Madrid after recovering from a tendon injury and muscle strain in his right thigh which kept him off the pitch for more than three weeks.

Benzema led Madrid to the Champions League and Spanish league double last season after scoring 44 goals in all competitions.

But his team did not miss him much and maintained his perfect record this season of nine wins in as many games in all competitions.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side lead the league two points clear of Barcelona before hosting fifth-placed Osasuna on Sunday.

“I feel very good, at ease. I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game,” Benzema said. “We have a big team, although you could say we have two teams. There is no difference between those who start the match and those who arrive.

A struggling Sevilla face a tough test when they visit Atlético Madrid on Saturday. The pressure is mounting on coach Julen Lopetegui and the management of the club, which sold talented players in the summer, after the team won only once in eight games in total.

Third-placed Real Betis play at Celta Vigo on Sunday, while fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao host Almería on Friday.

More AP soccer: and

Comments are closed.