YOKOHAMA, Japan December 16 – Barcelona were counting the cost of their Club World Cup excursion to the Far East after they lost David Villa to a broken left leg that will keep him out for at least five months.
Villa’s injury came shortly before half-time in the European champions’ 4-0 semi-final rout of the Qatari outfit Al Sadd, and Barca boss Pep Guardiola now faces the challenge of getting his men to refocus on the football.
The Catalans face Brazilian side Santos in the final of the intercontinental tournament in Japan on Sunday, with midfielder Javier Mascherano and Chile forward Alexis Sanchez, Villa’s replacement, also picking up knocks.
Guardiola, who in his three-and-a-half years at the helm has won every trophy going, admitted his players were “upset” after Villa’s injury Thursday, which he suffered when he fell badly and immediately signalled to the bench.
“David is a very popular person (in the dressing room) and a sensitive lad,” said Guardiola.
“The players are upset. These losses leave you sick, unhappy, empty. Everybody puts themselves in his shoes and knows how much he’s going to suffer.”
Barcelona have previously been linked with Arsenal’s on-song striker Robin van Persie, but Guardiola said it was not the time to think about swooping for a replacement in the winter transfer window.
The Spanish champions, regarded as one of the best club sides ever, were never in trouble against Al Sadd, Asia’s finest, at the International Stadium in Yokohama.
The Brazilian Adriano netted a brace in the first-half for an under-strength Barca, who left regulars Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi out of the starting XI.
Seydou Keita and Maxwell scored a goal apiece in the second period to wrap up a victory which was never in doubt.
But Barcelona know it will be an altogether different challenge when they go up against Santos, who in teenage forward Neymar have one of the most sought-after players in world football.
The 19-year-old, who has been compared with Barca’s Argentine master Lionel Messi, who had a quiet night against Al Sadd, scored the South American champions’ sensational first goal in their 3-1 semi-final defeat of Kashiwa Reysol.
“I’m really looking forward to the final with two great teams playing,” said the Barcelona captain Carles Puyol. “Everybody talks about Neymar but there are many other good players.
“It is difficult to mark Neymar. He has great speed. I’ve seen him play many times and I feel he’s a great player and he has a very promising future ahead of him. He is quite fast and he is unpredictable when he gets the ball.”
Santos, who rode their luck at times against the Japanese champions, boast an array of attacking talent that also includes the prolific Borges, who scored an impressive second on Wednesday, and cunning number 10 Ganso.
“Santos are very good and I think they have really important players up front like Neymar and Ganso,” said the Argentine Mascherano.
“The players are very experienced. I played in Brazil and I know the coach (Muricy Ramalho) is very clever as well. We have respect for them.”
Guardiola, whose star-studded side only arrived in Japan on Sunday night, hours after defeating fierce rivals Real Madrid, was equally wary.