MADRID, Spain, April 5 – Barcelona defender Dani Alves has said the La Liga leaders can cope without Lionel Messi for their clash with Mallorca on Saturday.
The four-time World Player of the Year strained his hamstring in the 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, ruling him out of this weekend’s game and possibly the return against the Parisians on Wednesday.
However, Alves believes the Argentine’s absence is a great opportunity for Barca to show they are far from a one-man team.
“The fact he is not going to be there is an incentive to show that we have the sufficient quality to compete without him and to show we can do just as well as when he is there.” the Brazilian told a press conference on Wednesday.
Messi’s injury though wasn’t the only important loss the Catalans suffered in the French capital as Javier Mascherano was stretchered off with a lateral knee ligament injury which will rule him out for six weeks.
And with Carles Puyol and Adriano already ruled out for the coming weeks due to injury, Alves has said he would be more than willing to deputise in central defence having played in a back three under Pep Guardiola last season.
“If I don’t remember wrongly, I have already done it with Guardiola when we played with a back three. I have the ability to adapt myself: if they ask me to attack, I attack; if they ask me to defence, I defend and if they ask me to do both, I will try to do so.
“I am at the disposition of the coaches.”
The good news for Barca will be the return of Tito Vilanova to the Camp Nou for the first time since he travelled to New York for cancer treatment at the end of January.
Vilanova made his return to the touchline for the game in Paris and will continue with Barca’s rotation policy for league games in recent weeks with Wednesday’s return against PSG in mind.
Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are among those likely to be rested, although Pedro could return after he missed the last two games with a calf injury.
Barca’s 13-point lead at the top of the table has given them some breathing space, but Mallorca’s need for points is urgent as the islanders lie second bottom of the table and three points from safety with just nine games remaining.
And manager Gregorio Manzano has said Messi’s absence is just the boost they needed ahead of the daunting trip to the Camp Nou.
“With Messi absent we won’t have this footballing nightmare of trying to stop a player that has scored more goals than I don’t know how many teams in the First Division,” he told a press conference on Thursday.
“I don’t want to say that without Messi, Barcelona will be a vulnerable team because they are absolutely not.
“What has happened is that they don’t have the resource of a footballer that I do not need to describe because everything has already been said about what he can do in a game.”
Real Madrid meanwhile will continue their pursuit of Barca when they host Levante at home on Saturday afternoon.
Los Blancos’ 3-0 win over Galatasaray in their Champions League quarter-final first-leg on Wednesday means there isn’t such a great need for manager Jose Mourinho to keep plenty in reserve for the return-leg in Istanbul.
The Portuguese indicated that Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso will both start after they picked up yellow cards that will keep them out of the game in Turkey on Tuesday, whilst Iker Casillas is expected to return to the squad but only start on the bench as he returns after three months out with a hand injury.
Granada v Real Betis
Real Sociedad v Malaga
Real Madrid v Levante
Deportivo la Coruna v Real Zaragoza
Barcelona v Mallorca
Celta Vigo v Rayo Vallecano
Osasuna v Espanyol
Getafe v Atletico Madrid
Valencia v Valladolid
Sevilla v Athletic Bilbao