What an important win for Barca at the Vicente Calderon against title contender Atletico Madrid. With Real Madrid’s emphatic 6-0 win against lowly Espanyol, Barca had to get the W, away from home, in order to maintain first place in La Liga.
A goalless first half was followed by an exciting opening ten minutes to the second half. Goals from Fernando Torres (51’), Neymar Jr. (55’) and eventual game winner from Lionel Messi (77’) made for an entertaining 90 minutes between two exciting teams.
The contest was marred by a few no-calls in regards to handballs in both squad’s penalty boxes and an injury to Thomas Vermaelen. Here we go again, must have been the thought that crossed many Barca fans, as they saw the Belgian defender limp off the field. Having missed all but three games last season, after Barca paid €15 million to Arsenal for the 29 year-olds services, many fans were left with a sour taste in their mouth after at the end of the game.
I was curious to find out Vermaelen’s history with injuries, to see if there was any kind of a pattern, and figure out what this would imply for Barcelona, a few days before it’s opening Champions League match in Rome.
In the 2007-2008 season, with Ajax, he ruptured his cruciate ligament (missing 109 days and 16 games) and strained his groin (missing 34 days and 6 games). He was bought by Arsenal in 2009 for €10 million at the age of 23. His list of problems while at Arsenal include a calf problem (missing 23 days and 4 games), achilles tendon problems (missing 233 days and 51 games) which led to an achilles tendon surgery (missing 50 days and 11 games), two separate malleolar injuries (missing 21 days and 4 games), a fatigue fracture at the end of the 2013 offseason (missing 62 days and 5 games), several knee problems (missing 60 days and 12 games) and finally a strain to his thigh muscle, which carried over into Barcelona’s 2014-2015 season (missing 60 days and 18 games).
Barcelona bought Vermaelen last summer hoping that he would add depth to Barca’s defense and optimally feature in the starting eleven. That plan would be short-lived, as yet another thigh muscle strain last October kept him out for 176 days, missing 35 matches of his first season at Camp Nou.
A strong preseason, and an unexpected goal last match day, led Blaugrana fans to feel a long-awaited sense of optimism towards the Belgian defender. Which again came to shambles as we watched Vermaelen limp off the field at Vicente Calderon. The Belgian defender picked up a calf injury in the 27th minute, replaced by Jeremy Mathieu, as his recovery time is still unknown.
Hopefully this is just a knock, unlike the calf injury that kept him out of four games for Arsenal in the 2009-2010 campaign. With Pique’s soon-to-be-over suspension, Dani Alves still not at 100% and Alex Vidal unable to play until January, Barca will have to plug in the gaps at the backline for the time being. Hopefully Luis Enrique can create some magic during the coming weeks.