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Nov 12, 2013

Andres Iniesta's big opportunity

Barcelona must get Andres Iniesta more involved in the offense with Lionel Messi out.
Barcelona must get Andres Iniesta more involved in the offense with Lionel Messi out.

There is never a good time for Lionel Messi to be injured, but his latest leg injury comes before a particularly rough stretch for Barcelona, as the club is looking ahead at four difficult games against teams that are situated in the top half of La Liga. However, with the Catalan giants still unbeaten in league play, and already through to the knockout stage of the Champions League, it’s unlikely that Messi’s time away will be completely catastrophic for the club. In fact, the Argentinian’s absence should actually provide opportunities for manager Tata Martino to explore different combinations within his attacking group, while also allowing specific players to regain their form within the team.

How will Martino’s attack change with Messi out, and how could it actually be beneficial for Barcelona?

The biggest change will likely come for Spanish international Andres Iniesta.

The midfielder, who finished third in the 2012 Ballon d’Or voting and led La Liga with 16 assists last season, has experienced a slight decline throughout the 2013-14 campaign. He has regressed in assists and chances created this season, which can be explained by decreases in both touches and pass attempts in the attacking third. Although Iniesta has appeared in all 13 league games, he has come on as a substitute five times, and at times has become the odd man out in the midfield when all of Martino’s attacking options are healthy.

Barcelona midfielders have gained a reputation for their superior thought and vision, and Iniesta is one of the reasons for that line of thin...