La Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid return to action after injuries to Gavi, Vinicius and Camavinga
Barcelona and Real Madrid will be without three of their top young players when the Spanish league returns this weekend.
Barcelona and Real Madrid will be without three of their top young players when the Spanish league returns this weekend, after they were injured during the international break.
Barcelona lost 19-year-old Gavi for the rest of the season when the all-terrain midfielder tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and damaged his lateral meniscus during Spain's final European Championship qualifier. Spain was already qualified for next year's tournament in Germany before it beat Georgia 3-1 on Sunday.
National team coach Luis de la Fuente has come under criticism in Spain's sports media for not substituting Gavi when his knee buckled inward during a collision with an opponent. He played on for a few minutes only to collapse in tears before limping off. He will now undergo surgery that will most likely also rule him out for Spain at Euro 2024.
Gavi, despite his age, has emerged as a key player for Spain and for his club. He is Barcelona's best tackler in midfield and replacing him will be no easy task for coach Xavi Hernández.
Barcelona visits Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. It sits third in the league standings, four points behind surprising leader Girona and two points behind Real Madrid.
Gavi has played the second most minutes of any outfield player this season for Barcelona, only behind Ilkay Gundogan. The player from near Seville had taken on more importance in recent weeks when fellow midfielders Pedri and Frenkie de Jong were both recovering from muscle complaints.
Pedri returned to play for Barcelona before the international break and De Jong is back training for the first time since he was hurt in September. Fermin López, 20, should continue to have opportunities after impressing since moving up from Barcelona's youth teams.
Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is also doubtful after he hurt his back while with Germany. If he can not play at the 10th-placed Rayo, then rarely used Iñaki Peña will be in goal.
Madrid visits 16th-place Cadiz on Sunday needing to find replacements for forward Vinícius Júnior and multi-use midfielder Eduardo Camavinga.
Vinícius tore a leg muscle in his left leg during Brazil's 2-1 loss at Colombia on Friday. That should sideline the player who was key to Madrid winning its 14th European Cup two seasons ago for several weeks.
Vinícius' injury leaves Carlo Ancelotti without one of his top scorers after Karim Benzema left in the offseason for Saudi Arabia. Newcomer Jude Bellingham has so far picked up the scoring load with a league-high 10 goals and 13 goals in all competitions. The 23-year-old Vinícius has chipped in with six goals overall.
Vinícius' absence could open the door for Joselu to start alongside Rodrygo in attack, and perhaps lead to more minutes for Luka Modric or Brahim Díaz. The 38-year-old Modric has become a second-half substitute for Ancelotti this season after being a career starter.
The 21-year-old Camavinga tore a ligament in his right knee in training with France.
His absence leaves Ancelotti without one of his most versatile players, who can play as a holding midfielder or at right back. Camavinga started all four of Madrid's Champions League games and appeared in all 13 of its Spanish league matches this season.
Girona has been defying expectations by winning 11 of 13 games. It next faces Athletic Bilbao at home on Monday.
Midfielder Aleix García became the first ever Girona player to play for Spain last week.
Striker Artem Dovbyk and winger Viktor Tsygankov both started for Ukraine in its scoreless draw with Italy on Monday. That result sent Italy into Euro 2024 and Ukraine to a playoff to see if it can join them next summer. (AP) DDV