As we head into the second La Liga fixture of the season against Real Betis, Barcelona are down to the bare bones in attack.
Philippe Coutinho’s loan deal could’ve been predicted, unlike the injuries to Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.
The latter allegedly travelled abroad and masked the seriousness of an injury which appears to have been picked up during the game against Athletic Club.
Barça are fuming with Ousmane Dembélé after the winger covered up the extent of his hamstring injury to spend the weekend in Senegal: https://t.co/U4JrWGw5MR pic.twitter.com/nVwv3PuUAg— AS English (@English_AS) August 20, 2019
Has he sealed his exit in so doing? It’s hard to make any more arguments for him, given a continued lack of professionalism.
That accusation can’t be levelled at Rafinha.
Despite more than one window’s worth of transfer rumours, including coming close to sealing a deal to Saturday’s opponents whilst Quique Setien was in charge, the Brazilian has never given less than one hundred per cent.
It should be a pre-requisite for any elite athlete, but as we can see, that isn’t always the case.
Rafinha is a man with thousand lives. The Brazilian has overcome three serious injuries and continues to prove himself when he plays. [md] pic.twitter.com/jHd2QGATX5— barcacentre (@barcacentre) August 19, 2019
Add in the incredibly poor luck Rafinha has had with serious injuries, and it’s a wonder that he hasn’t thrown in the towel already.
It’s to his credit that he hasn’t, and Dembele’s pain is, evidently, Rafinha’s gain.
With no Malcom to come in to lighten the attacking load, there’s a high probability that Rafinha will form part of Barca’s front line in the next match as a bare minimum.
There are limitations to his play but at least we can be assured he’ll do everything possible to help the Blaugrana get their first three points of the season.
Antoine Griezmann probably didn’t expect to be the focal point of the attack quite so soon after his switch from Atletico Madrid, but Barca will be relying on him heavily at the weekend.
⏱ 9⃣0⃣ seconds challenge— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 13, 2019
One thing that Ernesto Valverde must therefore ensure is that the Frenchman gets enough service.
Thrust into the centre-forward role against Athletic Club after Suarez was taken off, he made some wonderful darting movements that were either not seen by his team-mates or their passing was off colour.
Griezmann will score goals, of that there’s no doubt, he just needs others on the same wavelength.
Rafinha-Griezmann-???— σlu (@xOluwaseyii) August 19, 2019
Betis showed that they’re still brittle at the back against Real Valladolid, and if Barca can press high and consistently, they should reap the rewards.
Rafinha might even play himself back into contention for regular employ under Valverde, rather than making a move to Valencia, which is still under consideration in this window.