Is Busquets’ Injury The End Of FC Barcelona’s Successful Four Man Midfield Under Xavi?

Sergio Busquets’ injury could spell the end of FC Barcelona’s successful four man midfield – or will head coach Xavi Hernandez stick to his guns?

In a huge blow for Barca considering the packed schedule that lies ahead, captain Busquets limped off the Camp Nou turf early in a La Liga meeting with Sevilla at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Before the half time whistle had even had chance to sound, reports had already spread from the likes of Cadena SER claiming how Busquets’ camp had said he would be out of action for two to three weeks.

Barca confirmed an ankle sprain on Monday, and though they did not mention a specific return date for the 35-year-old, the mentioned time frame is believed to be about right.

This puts ‘Busi’ out of contention for Sunday’s trip to Villarreal and, more importantly, a Europa League playoff first leg visit from Manchester United on February 16. The World Cup winner could be doubtful for the return fixture at Old Trafford a week later as well.

This begs the question as to whether Xavi will still go with the four man midfield that has enjoyed great success in important wins such as the Spanish Super Cup final against Real Madrid in Riyadh and a road trip to Real Betis last week.

The system sees Gavi, most frequently, or Pedri operate as a false left winger while the other man operates in front of a double pivot system where the best has been brought out of Frenkie de Jong alongside Busquets.

De Jong dropped a big hint to Xavi following the 2-1 Betis triumph. Saying that this is where he feels most comfortable, “at the base of midfield”, the Dutchman has not fared too well as a single pivot either.

When Busquets hobbled off at the weekend, Xavi immediately replaced him with Frenck Kessie. Rather than form a direct partnership with De Jong, however, he would often rotate with Pedri to accompany the number ’21’.

In the moments it wasn’t his turn to sit back with De Jong, the Ivorian roamed forward as high as Sevilla’s penalty box, which is where he provided a sensational outside-of-the-boot assist for Jordi Alba which broke the deadlock in the 3-0 rout.

Kessie’s best display in a Barca shirt since joining on a free transfer from AC Milan last summer gave Xavi something to think about. Though he is obviously not a like-for-like replacement for Busquets (who is?), holding responsibilities can still be split among Kessie, Pedri and De Jong as Gavi charges up and down the field with relentless energy.

Raphinha’s huge step forward in the Sevilla demolition with a goal and an assist means the Brazilian has probably locked down the only spot for a pure winger on the right while Ousmane Dembele is also, like Busquets, out injured.

But in the event that the quality of his displays should decline, Xavi could use Gavi as a false right winger instead and deploy a natural left winger such as Ansu Fati or Ferran Torres.

Given the poor form of the latter-mentioned Spain internationals, though, this is highly unlikely.

SPORT reports on Tuesday how Xavi is expected to stick with the four-man midfield system until Busquets returns. Additionally, however, his absence may lead to Pablo Torre earning some minutes here and there after being sent to the reserves to gain more experience.