Luis Suarez will miss four weeks with a right knee injury he suffered in the second leg of the Spanish Super Copa against Real Madrid, according to a release from FC Barcelona. Suarez endured a bad challenge from Marcelo in the 76th and was forced to limp around the pitch for the remaining 15 minutes of the match because Ernesto Valverde had just used his third substitution.
Such an injury can never come at a good time, but the timing is especially poor for the club and the player in this instance. Barcelona’s La Liga campaign is about to get underway and the Blaugrana’s forward line is incredibly thin because the club hasn’t made any signings to replace Neymar. The only silver lining, at least for the club, is that the first international break of the season will give Suarez some additional time to recover at the backend of his timetable.
Paco Alcacer is coming off a poor preseason in which he missed a number of sitters and was generally uninvolved in Barcelona’s buildup play, which leaves Barça with no convincing options to fill in for Suarez. After his experiment with a 3-5-2 failed so horridly at the Bernabeu on Wednesday, I would guess Ernesto Valverde returns to a 4-3-3 in Suarez’s absence, placing Messi on the right wing, Alcacer in the center and either Gerard Deulofeu or Denis Suarez on the left. With Neymar gone and with the promised high-end reinforcements yet to arrive at the Nou Camp, Lionel Messi will be relied upon more than ever to carry Barcelona.
Although a month is a significant amount of time to miss with an injury, and you always worry with knee problems, it doesn’t seem that Suarez’s ailment is serious enough to warrant an overhaul in Barcelona’s transfer plans. Perhaps if Suarez was missing two months, Barcelona would have to consider signing another striker, perhaps prioritizing a move for someone like Paulo Dybala, to fill in for Suarez and then perhaps play alongside him once he returned.
Unfortunately, Barcelona’s lack of progress in the transfer market puts us in a grey area at the moment, as I’m not entirely sure what Valverde’s vision for the team is. If he plans on continuing with a 4-3-3, then maybe getting Coutinho and Dembele in and playing Messi as a false nine until Suarez returns could work, or if he wants to play a 4-2-3-1, then putting Alcacer at the top of an attack that features Messi, Coutinho and Dembele behind him wouldn’t be so bad for a short stint.
But it isn’t even worth thinking about those scenarios because neither Coutinho nor Dembele are Barça players at the moment, and there is no indication that either will be any time soon. Even before the Super Copa disappointment, Barcelona was a club with more questions than answers, and Suarez’s unfortunate injury only makes matters more complicated, if not more depressing.