With Bayern Munich facing a plethora of injuries ahead of tomorrow's highly-anticipated UEFA Champions League semi final first-leg against FC Barcelona, it seems fitting that the Blaugrana would eventually suffer an injury setback of their own. And somewhat surprisingly, it does not involve Jordi Alba, even after the Catalan missed training yesterday with some discomfort. Rather, it is his defensive colleague Jeremy Mathieu who has been affected, as the Frenchman was ruled out of Wednesday's clash with an Achilles injury.
The news is sure to come as a minor setback to head coach, Luis Enrique, who must have been contemplating starting Mathieu alongside Gerard Pique at centre-half. not only to provide some natural balance to the Barcelona defense, but also to cope with the aerial threat that Bayern will pose. With Robert Lewandowski set to make his return from injury, there is a very real concern that Bayern now possess a huge aerial advantage and could cause problems for the hosts from set-pieces on Wednesday.
In addition, it will also impact our offensive prowess, as Mathieu more recently has provided a threat from corner kicks and free kicks, scoring a couple of important goals -- including a crucial header in El Clasico, and the solitary goal in a 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo at Balaidos, a result that helped Barça retain their slender lead at the top of the La Liga table.
The injury suggests that Javier Mascherano will now start at centre-half alongside Gerard Pique, somewhat robbing the Blaugrana of an opportunity to experiment with a 'double-pivote' -- although there have been no suggestions that this system has ever been considered by Lucho.
What do we think Cules? Can we overcome Mathieu's absence and grab an all-important win at the Camp Nou tomorrow?