It is difficult to fathom where Barcelona would have been this season without Ronald Araujo. The Uruguayan international has been the best defender in the team by a significant margin while developing several on-ball aspects of his game.
With the big game against Napoli coming up in the UEFA Europa League, Araujo was seen as the wall that could stop the rampant Italians. However, Xavi’s plans received a massive blow on Sunday when the centre-back suffered an injury late in the first half against Espanyol.
It was later revealed that he has suffered a muscular injury to his Soleus muscle, forcing him out of action for at least a week. Yet, there were rumours that he was ready to play through the injury against Napoli.
Now, Helena Condis has reported that the defender is still not training with the group. His absence from tomorrow’s game is almost certain, with his participation on the weekend, against Valencia under doubt as well.
This would force Xavi to start Eric Garcia alongside Gerard Pique at Camp Nou tomorrow. The all-Spanish pairing did not have a memorable time in the second half at Cornella and will hope to put the past behind them. Moreover, the fact that Garcia is just returning from injury makes matters more volatile.
Thursday’s game is crucial for Barcelona, especially given that the second leg is scheduled in Naples. Given the team’s poor history in defending their leads away from home, one would hope for a dominating win at Camp Nou to keep hopes alive.