Barcelona, as expected, made light work of the 2011 Asia Champions League winner Al Saad in the semifinals of the Club World Cup in Japan. However, the side's 4-0 victory came at significant cost as David Villa was stretchered off with a broken leg and his replacement, Alexis Sánchez, was himself subsequently substituted following the recurrence of a leg muscle injury.
Fortunately for Barcelona, it has an embarrassment of riches in wide areas and the loss of two of its primary first-teamers will not be felt too keenly. Sánchez will have the winter break to recover and Pedro, Adriano, Thiago and Andrés Iniesta are all capable of filling in on the left-hand side of Barça's attacking triumvirate and Isaac Cuenca could probably switch flanks in a pinch. Barça plays Brazil's Santos in Sunday's final in Yokohoma.
"We're all very sad for David," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. "He will be out for a long time with this sort of break. It's a massive blow for him and Barcelona. He will return to Barcelona as soon as possible for an operation. We will have to win the Club World Cup without him but he is in our hearts."
However, Villa has not always been on the Barça teamsheet this season and rumors abounded earlier this week that offers were being lined up by Premier League clubs Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa. Guardiola was quick to scotch the gossip, born largely through Villa's absence from the starting 11 for the clásico against Real Madrid: "[Sports daily] Marca lie. I have not spoken to David after the last match in Madrid, but all of the players are in my plans," he said this week.
But it is not at club level that Villa's misfortune will be the season's greatest issue. There is a strong possibility that the forward will not be fit for the European Championship next summer, creating quite a headache for Vicente del Bosque. Villa is Spain's all-time leading scorer with 51 in 82 games and the national side's undisputed first-choice striker.
Behind Villa are Fernando Llorente, more of an impact substitute than a starter whose physical attributes make him more suited to direct play than tiki-taka. Fernando Torres is desperately short of form and confidence, having scored just five goals in 2011, and is not even certain to make the airplane to Poland and Ukraine.
Roberto Soldado and Álvaro Negredo represent the second tier of Spain's striking options, with the latter proving his worth in the Champions League with five goals in five games. Negredo has been injured, preventing his call-up for Spain's last internationals, and has not scored from open play since the third game of the season.
"It's very bad news, very unlucky, for him in particular as he suffered the injury," Del Bosque told Europa Press. "And thinking ahead to the European Championship, it is obviously very bad news as well. There are still six months to go. Some return quickly, others take a little longer. First we need to listen to what the doctors say."