Barcelona will miss Neymar

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Despite advancing to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals after a 2-0 round-of-16 return leg win over Getafe, Barcelona left the Coliseum Alfonso Perez with a bitter taste in their mouths. Sure, the game was won thanks to a couple of sparks of brilliance from Lionel Messi, but unfortunately, the injury suffered by Neymar was enough to make all Blaugrana alarm bells ring.

- Ledwith: Messi brilliance tempered by Neymar injury
- Report: Barca confirm Neymar injury blow
- Report: Fears eased over Neymar injury

There's no two ways about it: The way the Brazilian's ankle twisted on that dreadful pitch in the Madrid suburbs made Cules fear the worst. The gifted forward kept rolling in pain on the floor before being stretched out and, for a seemingly eternal 30 minutes, fans had their fingers firmly crossed and hoping for positive news.

Having watched the terrifying replay several times, I must admit that the fact that Neymar has been diagnosed only with a sprained ankle and is expected to be back in three to four weeks is little short of a miracle. Obviously, losing the star signing of the season for nearly a month cannot be considered a positive, but considering the horrific twist his ankle suffered, I am hugely relieved.

If Neymar manages to recover full fitness within the period predicted by club doctors, he would have missed only the Liga matches against Levante, Malaga, Valencia, Sevilla and Rayo Vallecano, and the doubleheader against Levante in the Copa quarterfinals. Most importantly, the Brazilian youngster would be ready to rejoin the team by the time they travel to the Etihad Stadium to face on-form Manchester City in the Champions League knockout stages.

I am fully aware that injuries can simply not be predicted, and it is very easy to talk about what could have been done better once the damage is done. That said, I would like to point out that seeing both Neymar and Messi in the starting lineup of a match largely considered irrelevant given the previous 4-0 result at the Camp Nou was rather odd.

Don't get me wrong, I admire the fact that manager Gerardo Martino has been faithful to his strict rotation policy from the start of the season and has never really fielded any players because of their status within the team, instead electing to judge their form and performance in training. However, I felt qualification could have also been achieved with young guns such as Jean-Marie Dongou or Adama Traore starting up front. It would have also been a great way to reward the work the youngsters put into their development on a daily basis.

I sincerely do hope that the predicted three to four weeks on the sidelines make Neymar better prepared to make an impact when he returns, both physically and mentally. Having missed a lot of football in recent times due to suspensions, injuries, stomach bugs and rotations should make him one of the fresher squad members in the decisive stages of the season.

From a more general perspective, I am confident that Barcelona can continue to achieve positive results in domestic competitions during the gifted Brazilian's absence. Pedro Rodriguez, Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas have all excelled in the last month, scoring goals for fun and creating plenty of goal-scoring opportunities for each other.

The way that Messi has recovered his former spark is obviously the icing on the cake, a clear indication that spending such a huge chunk of his recovery time away from Catalunya was in fact the right decision. Having the Argentinian wizard back to his best will certainly fill Blaugrana teammates, coaches and supporters with much-needed confidence.

However, the fact that Neymar will be missed is clear. The way he improves the play up front with his forward runs, unpredictable dribbling skills and quick combinations from the wings has made the Barcelona attack much more incisive and direct this season and far more difficult to defend.

Get well soon, Neymar. Cules will be right here waiting to cheer you on when you come back.

The Quote -- "Phew! When I went down, all sorts of bad scenarios played out in my head. I thought it was a serious injury; I thought about my plans for 2014... But Jesus was with me once again and it was just a fright. I want to thank everyone who prayed for me. And don't worry, I'm going to put my [boots] on to make sure that I'm back in no time. We're in this together" -- Neymar

195,000 Cules follow Francesc Tomas at @TomasESPN and Barcablog Facebook for news and opinion notes on Barcelona.

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