Andres Iniesta, the man who ripped-out Chelsea hearts not once but twice at Stamford Bridge, most recently creating the equalizer two weeks ago in our 1-1 draw, grabbed his right hamstring 22 minutes into Barcelona’s match against Atletico Madrid.
Within minutes he was off the pitch and into a chamber of secrecy.
We say secrecy because Barca, who generally give far more detailed medical reports than do Premier League teams, would normally offer an estimate for how long an injured player is expected to be out.
But no such news is forthcoming from the Catalans about Iniesta. The furthest the club would go is a vague “(his) recovery will determine when he returns to action.” Well, no [SHOE], Sherlocks.
Hamstrings, as anyone who follows sports knows, are not to be trifled with. If not given plenty of time to fully heal they will tear over and over again. The problem can be chronic, a condition some feared Diego Costa was suffering from when Chelsea acquired him.
We also know that older players often take longer to recover from injuries. Iniesta is 33 years of age.
So it’s reasonable to believe that he won’t be fit to face Chelsea just 11 days after throwing in the towel against Barca’s strongest challengers for La Liga title. But replacing him won’t be easy.
“Iniesta is a unique player, a little like Messi, so it’s difficult to find a player who can replace him.
”He is unique in the world in terms of the characteristics he has. We will have to see the extent of the injury. He carried on playing at first so we thought it wasn’t too bad, but we’re not sure.”
-Ernesto Valverde; source: ESPN
His uniqueness, the difficulty in replacing him, is exactly why Barcelona are being unusually tight-lipped about his prognosis.
They need him. They may be without him. That could help Chelsea.
And that’s why amid all the gloom and doom of last Sunday, if you looked hard enough you could a slender shaft of light off in the distance.
It didn’t dispel the clouds. But it does offer hope. And any hope is most welcome right now. Chelsea's Premier League campaign may be dying a slow death, but there's plenty of room for a Champions League miracle.