With Lionel Messi, Victor Valdes, Xavi, Dani Alves, and Others Injured, It's Time to Shine for Barcelona's Backups

Jasper Juinen

The past few weeks have been harsh for Barcelona players' fitness. The treatment room is overflowing, with Lionel Messi obviously the most notable player wounded. Who can step up in their absence?

The FIFA Virus struck once again, and this time, adding injury to injury, it came alongside a strain of bad luck.

Goalkeeper Victor Valdes is out for 6 weeks after suffering an injury in South Africa playing for Spain. His Spanish teammates Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas also suffered a few niggles, though they could be fit in time for the next game. Dani Alves also suffered a small injury playing for Brazil, and is out up to 10 days.

Xavi was given a rare tour off with the Spanish, but he somehow managed to injure himself in training for Barcelona. So did Cristian Tello. Lionel Messi tore a muscle after coming back from an injury on his other leg and is probably out until January.  Jonathan Dos Santos is out with a long-term injury. And Jordi Alba is still rehabbing after suffering two consecutive injuries, with no playing time in between.

That's not counting Ibrahim Afellay, who has evaded any continued action for Barcelona since September 2011 through a series of long term injuries and a loan to FC Schalke 04.

With a game against Granada in the horizon, Barcelona will have to rely on its squad strength carrying the day. Some under-utilized players who will have bigger roles now:

Jose Manuel Pinto

A former Zamora Trophy winner for best goalkeeper in La Liga, Pinto has experience by the truckload. He is the oldest player in the squad at 38 and has been Barca's Copa del Rey keeper since Pep Guardiola signed him from Betis.

With Victor Valdes set to leave Barcelona at the end of the season, Pinto ambitiously said he "trains to be a starter next season." That may not end up happening, but he is the starter for the foreseeable future.

He's had a good run as the #2, winning the Copa twice since 2009. But how will he handle the #1 job for the remainder of the year? "Pinto has always responded," Javier Mascherano said.

Sergi Roberto

Roberto has been tipped for a bigger role this season, but so far it has not really happened. An almost prototypical La Masia midfielder with calm temperament, offensive and defensive attributes, and (of course) tremendous passing ability, Roberto is one of the hottest prospects to come out of the world's best football academy.

With Fabregas not necessarily 100% and Xavi and Dos Santos out, Roberto may have a shot to start making his mark. Of course, Barcelona still count on Alex Song, Sergio Busquets, and Andres Iniesta, but Roberto should get minutes.

Another interesting feature is that coach Gerardo Martino has used Roberto as a "false 9" to supplant Messi. He won't be first-choice, but he could get more time in that role as well.

Martin Montoya

Another La Masia budding star, Montoya has apparently been frustrated with a lack of opportunities playing behind the Brazilian fullback duo of Alves and Adriano Correia. Montoya is naturally a right-back, but he's done well as a fill-in for Adriano or Alba on the left, as well.

With Alves and Alba facing injury struggles, and Adriano always an injury concern, we may see Montoya on either the left or right flank more.

And now with Montoya's contract running down, and apparent interest from such clubs as Arsenal, Liverpool, Inter Milan, and Napoli, this is a crucial time for Barcelona to give him more chances. With the World Cup looming, Montoya's inclusion in Vicente del Bosque's squad is not out of the question.

Right-back may be World Champions Spain's most unsettled position. Sergio Ramos has made a permanent switch to CB since their 2010 triumph. His fill-in, Alvaro Arbeloa, was absolutely shredded by Neymar in the Confederations Cup final.

Atletico Madrid's Juanfran Torres is apparently set to be the starter for now, but it's certainly not definitive. Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta has been given time but he's hardly lit the world on fire, either.

While Montoya has been called up but never played for Spain, Real Madrid's best prospect, Dani Carvajal, has yet to  be called up to the senior team. Montoya, now 22, was Spain's first choice right-back at the U21 level, ahead of Carvajal.

A good run for him would do wonders for himself, Barcelona, and Spain. He and the rest should be getting their shot soon.

Starting?

Pinto will definitely start against Granada as Oier is still clearly the third keeper. With Alves and Alba probably still hurt, Montoya is a guarantee. Roberto could start if Fabregas is not recovered and if Alex Song is not preferred. However it's more likely that Roberto would come off the bench.

Possible XI:

football formations

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