Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has fractured a finger in his left hand and will need an operation, the club announced on Wednesday.
Rakitic sustained the injury during Barca’s shock 3-0 defeat to Roma on Tuesday as the Catalans were knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals on away goals.
A statement from the club said Rakitic had suffered a fracture in a “metacarpal bone in the first finger of his left hand”, adding the Croatia international would undergo surgery on Wednesday.
Rakitic may miss Saturday’s La Liga game at home to Valencia, when Barcelona can extend their unbeaten run in La Liga to 39 games and break the record set by Real Sociedad in 1980.
Ernesto Valverde’s side sit top of the table, 11 points clear of Atletico Madrid.
The Catalan club held a 4-1 first-leg advantage ahead of the return match in Rome on Tuesday night, but goals from Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas secured an unlikely 3-0 victory for the Italian outfit and sealed their place in the last four on away goals.
As a result, Barcelona’s treble ambitions have been scuppered and questions have been raised about their mentality, as the Spanish side failed to progress past the quarter-final stage for the third successive season.
Ernesto Valverde’s team look on course to reclaim La Liga as they hold an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid with seven matches remaining, but that has not stopped the Spanish press from condemning their poor performance at the Stadio Olimpico.
The headline of newspaper Mundo Deportivo read “The fall of Rome” and the Catalan-based publication continued with a picture of Valverde on his haunches adding: “Barca KO’d in the quarters” and “Dzeko, De Rossi and Manolas all score for superior Roma”.
In an editoral, Mundo Deportivo also critically analysed the Barcelona boss’ resistance against squad rotation, stating: “Europe saw a Barca that was unrecognisable, without spark, without shaft, without endurance, conditioned by the pressure and the intensity of Roma.
“In 2018, Barcelona has played 24 games. And in these three and a half months, Valverde has opted for an almost fixed block to which he has given little respite.
“Nine players have been starters in over 15 games. Valverde has continued to trust some men beyond the limit.”
Madrid-based newspaper AS used a picture of the third goal for their front page, while also commenting: “Roma were better than Barca from pitch to pitch”.
Marca, Spain’s biggest-selling sports daily, had the headline of “Total failure in Europe”, which was accompanied with a picture of a dismayed Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique, while also referencing the exit of Manchester City under former manager Pep Guardiola.
Marca also launched a scathing attack on the management style of Valverde, which read: “Ernesto Valverde is conservative. He doesn’t like to risk much and on Tuesday night that approach took its toll.
“Valverde has put everything on winning La Liga and by focussing on avoiding losing a championship that was already won he has burnt out his players. The lack of freshness was clear to see in Rome.
“Valverde’s conservatism was also seen through the way the team was set up, as they were more worried about conceding goals than scoring their own away goal to kill the tie. The poor management of the substitutions was the icing on the cake.”
Catalan-based publication Sport branded the defeat on their front page as: “Failure without excuses”, while their match report headline read: “Blaugrana embarrassed in Champions League”.
After the 3-0 defeat at Stadio Olimpico, which sent Roma through on away goals, Ernesto Valverde paid lip-service to shouldering responsibility but in the same breath pointed to a disappointment with his players.
“A week ago we scored four goals with the same line-up,” Valverde said. “We coped with their game and played ours. It went right. This time it did not.”
But perhaps that was part of the problem. Barca won 4-1 at the Camp Nou with a performance that did not deserve the result.
Two own-goals and a late Luis Suarez strike masked what had been a disjointed display, low on fluency, high on mistakes, which on that occasion went unpunished.
Of all the trailing teams heading into the quarter-final second legs, few would have predicted Roma to be the ones celebrating progress to the last four. But there were clues, and Valverde missed them.
Barca have flattered to deceive in recent weeks.
They were outplayed for large spells by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but snatched a 1-1 draw. A 1-0 win at home to Atletico Madrid, which all-but secured them the title, was efficient rather than emphatic, decided only by a stunning Lionel Messi free-kick. And against Sevilla a fortnight ago, Barca trailed 2-0 in the 87th minute before Suarez and then Messi, as a substitute, engineered a dramatic late escape.
“Without personality, without playing well, without Messi and without cause for disagreement, Barca were shipwrecked in the Olimpico against an immensely superior team that knocked the Barca players off an artificial pedestal,” wrote Madrid’s daily newspaper AS on Wednesday.
Perhaps that is too strong.
Barca are still unbeaten in the league – although with what now appears an even trickier game at home to Valencia on Saturday – and 11 points clear at the top.
If they overcome out-of-form Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final later this month, they will likely be toasting a domestic double at the end of the season, possibly as La Liga’s first ever invincible team.
But Roma’s triumph, ensuring Barca’s third straight quarter-final exit in Europe, should at least serve as a wake-up call, reinforcing the need for changes in the summer.
Andres Iniesta admitted he might have played his last Champions League game as he ponders a move to China. He would need to be replaced or, more likely, properly succeeded by Philippe Coutinho.’
LACK OF FLEXIBILITY
Sergio Busquets played through the pain of a toe injury, exposing Barca’s lack of a competent back-up for the Spaniard in central midfield, which will have to be addressed.
Samuel Umtiti’s future needs to be resolved, as stalling contract talks have affected his form, and there is room for improvement at right back, where Sergi Roberto has not convinced.
But Valverde must also acknowledge a lack of flexibility, born largely out of his own tactics.
Resilience, organisation, an excellent goalkeeper in Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and Messi, have taken Barca a long way this term but when they needed to adapt against Roma, they were found wanting.
“They played their game and we did not know how to react,” Busquets said. “We did not know how to create chances. We weren’t in the right positions and in the end, they got the result.”
Victory over Valencia, who sit third, ahead of Real Madrid, will quickly change the mood. Barca are on the cusp of breaking Real Sociedad’s 1980 record of 38 unbeaten league games, set in a run that stretched across two seasons.
But even with successes still to come, they would do well to let the rout in Rome linger a little longer.
“You have to endure the pain – there will be some tough days,” Valverde said.
“We have to try to win the two competitions. A defeat like this hurts a lot, but you have to look forward.”