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Injury-hit Barcelona places faith in Ronaldinho

Barcelona will play without forwards like Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi and Javier Saviola in its next Spanish league match. Now club's only hope is Brazilian forward Ronaldinho.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 19:13 IST

Spanish league leader FC Barcelona will look to Ronaldinho to surmount its injury crisis.

The defending champion will lack three forwards; Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi and Javier Saviola , as well as midfielder Edmilson for Sunday's visit to Mallorca.

Eto'o, who will be out until February after damaging his right knee in September, has been joined by Messi, Saviola and Edmilson -all injured in Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Zaragoza last weekend. Messi broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot and faces a three-month layoff, while Saviola will be out for about six weeks with a thigh injury.

This leaves coach Frank Rijkaard with only three attacking players to accompany Ronaldinho, Eidur Gudjohnsen, right-winger Ludovic Giuly and reserve Santi Ezquerro in the remaining weeks of 2006.

Much will depend on Ronaldinho, who scored twice and created the third goal for Saviola against Zaragoza to lift Barcelona back to the top.

The 26-year-old Brazilian, a joint leading scorer in the league this season with eight goals, said Barcelona shouldn't be too concerned.

"We have to trust in the group. That's always what's most important. We can keep going if we stick together," the world player of the year said.

One relief for Barcelona is that midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who hasn't played since the Champions League draw with Chelsea on October 31, 2006 is available again.

No. 11 Mallorca boasts the division's tightest defense, having conceded only six goals in 10 games. However, the island side also suffers from the most misfiring attack with just five goals scored. Barcelona leads with 23 points, followed by Sevilla with 22, Real Madrid with 20 and Zaragoza with 19.

Sevilla will seek an improvement on Saturday after relinquishing the leadership last weekend with a lackluster draw at Racing Santander.

The UEFA champion entertains No. 6 Valencia, which has also endured an injury crisis and is winless in three games. Valencia will again lack Emiliano Moretti, Mario Regueiro, David Albelda, Asier Del Horno, Carlos Marchena and Jaime Gavilan.

First Published: Nov 16, 2006 19:13 IST