A rash of knocks will have as many as nine players out of action on Saturday as Barcelona clashes with Granada at Camp Nou.
The injuries have withered the Catalans midfield and defense, possibly upping the first-place clubs pursuits of several of the world’s top playmakers and a goalkeeper.
Along with Lionel Messi, midfielders Xavi, Jonathan Dos Santos and Ibrahim Afellay, defender Dani Alves, and seasoned keeper Victor Valdes are currently struggling with injuries, leaving Barcelona thin up and down the pitch.
The Catalans hold a three-point lead in La Liga, and can’t afford a slip before the turn of the campaign with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid within striking distance.
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti is one such player capable of lending a hand to Barcelona’s depleted depth. According to a report from Talk Sport, Catalans president Gerardo Martino dispatched scouts for the Italian that helped PSG clinch its first Ligue 1 title in two decades last term with 27 appearances.
The 21-year-old has also notched two assists for the French juggernaut this season, and Manchester United has shown serious interest as well.
However Martino’s top target appears to be Atletico’s Koke Resurreccion, a 21-year-old Spanish product that has been likened to Xavi in the past, according to The Express.
Koke leads his club with seven assists and has chipped in two goals to Atletico’s impressive start to the campaign, and his efforts have also garnered the attention of United and Liverpool.
A £17 million buyout built into his new contract and interest from two of the Premier League’s top clubs could make a move for Koke tricky, and may force Barcelona into their backup plan for Chelsea’s Ramires or Juventus’s Arturo Vidal.
The Brazilian-born Ramires has played a pivotal role under Jose Mourinho’s latest stint of leadership at Stamford Bridge, and Vidal has tallied 22 goals in two years with the Italian side, making both expensive acquisitions even for a team as willing to spend as Barcelona.
Vidal would certainly cost the most, with his market value in the £35 million range compared to £24 million for Ramires.
As for who can fill Valdes’s role, the Catalans are reportedly looking to Liverpool’s Pepe Reina and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen, as reported by the Daily Record.
Reina has made 12 appearances on loan to Napoli with the 31-year-old has compiled five clean sheets. A transfer for Stegen could become a more long term plan for Barcelona. Young and durable, the 21-year-old has tallied 86 appearances in two years with Monchengladbach. Price likely won’t be much of an issue as both keepers would fall in the £8 to £10 million range.