Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has played down concerns about Sergio Busquets latest injury blow after pointing out that he has plenty of options to cope without the Spain international midfielder in the coming games. Meanwhile, the boss hailed his side 4-0 win at Eibar on Sunday night (22 January) to end the first part of the 2016-2017 season in the third position of La Liga table, two points behind leaders Real Madrid and a point adrift Sevilla.
The victory over the Basque side came at a price for Barcelona after Busquets was forced off in the eight minute of the game following a heavy tackle in his ankle from Gonzalo Escalante.
The La Liga giants are yet to know the extent of the injury but the Spaniard is definitely ruled out for the crucial second leg of the Copa del Rey quarter finals against Real Sociedad on Thursday, with the Catalans having a 1-0 advantage from the reverse fixture played at San Sebastian.
Denis Suarez replaced Busquets at Eibar but it was eventually Rakitic the one who took the place of the Spanish holder in the middle of the park, providing balance to the team while playing behind Suarez himself Arda Turan and the MSN trio formed by Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Luis Enrique has no specialist in the squad to cover Busquets but the Barcelona boss said that he has at least four options to cope without the Spaniard thanks to the versatility of Rakitic himself, Sergi Roberto, Andre Gomes or Javier Mascherano, who used to play in that role for Liverpool before establishing as a centre-back at the Nou Camp.
"The bad news is the injury to Busquets, but it doesn't seem serious. Tomorrow he will undergo more tests," Luis Enrique said after Barcelona's win at Eibar. "I have many options to cover for Busquets. We have just won 4-0 at Ipurua and I will have time to think about it. I have many options. Sergi Roberto is an option. Ivan (Rakitic), André Gomes, Mascherano... I am not going to complain because I have many options."
"I liked Rakitic in the defensive midfield position, he was particularly good. As were Arda and Denis. It is the area of the pitch that we have the most options, everyone offers something beneficial."
Meanwhile, the boss expressed his delight about his side performance at the halfway point of the season, even though his side remain in the third position of the table behind Real Madrid and Sevilla.
"The balance of the first round (of the season) is positive. It could always be better but we are in a position to fight for all of the titles," the Barcelona boss stated. "We knew about Eibar's threat, the start of the match was tough with them coming close to scoring against us. But we defended well and when we withstood this pressure, we were able to benefit from their high pressure."
"We have given competitive playing time to players who will be important and we have rested players who have played many games. We leave with a great result, with a great end to the first and second half."