Barcelona midfielder Rafinha’s season was brought to a premature end after undergoing knee surgery on Friday, the club confirmed. The Brazilian will be sidelined for four months ruling him out of Barca’s push for a treble of La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey.
“Rafinha has had an arthroscopy in the right knee to solve an injury in the internal meniscus,” Barca said in a statement.
“The estimated time out is four months.”
Rafinha had to be replaced after just 17 minutes of Barca’s 4-1 win at Granada on Sunday.
The 24-year-old had become a key player in Barca boss Luis Enrique’s new formation following a 4-0 thrashing by Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie in February. He scored seven goals in 28 appearances in all competitions this season. However, Rafinha has an unfortunate history of knee injuries having missed the majority of last season to cruciate ligament damage.
This is a crucial blow to Barca in the most important part of the campaign. After losing Arda Turan to a groin injury, the Blaugrana now lose another important squad player that has become a key component of the team’s new tactical setup. The 3-3-1-3 has worked very well over the last few weeks thanks to Rafinha and Neymar keeping the width on the wings, allowing Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta to dominate the central areas and create threats all over the pitch.
Without Rafinha, Luis Enrique is trying different things. On Sunday’s match against Granada, in which Barça played a basic 4-3-3 formation, Paco Alcácer came in as a right winger and did very well, scoring and assisting while providing good defensive covering. Against Sevilla on Wednesday, Enrique once again used the 3-3-1-3, this time with Sergi Roberto and Ivan Rakitic alternating spots on the right flank, and both did quite well in the middle and on the wing.
Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes haven’t played much in recent weeks, but both have played on the wings at other clubs and at Barça. They could also be tested at Malaga this weekend, which might give Lucho an extra tactical option for the crucial Champions League match against Juventus in Italy.
Rafinha’s injury is a blow because it shortens the amount of options in Luis Enrique’s rotation system, but there are options to replace him, either with a 4-3-3 or 3-3-1-3 formation. Barca are in good form and can cope with the absence of an important player, so we should be in good shape even without Rafinha.