After not being able to overcome eternal rivals, Real Madrid, in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, Barcelona were dealt a further blow with the news that Arthur Melo has been ruled out for 3-4 weeks.
The Brazilian has been an incredible success story since his arrival from Gremio, to the extent that there are now genuine concerns as to how successful Barca will be in his absence.
He has given the Catalans an extra layer of security thanks to his ball retention and willingness to set the tempo and rhythm of a game, and they’ll certainly miss his input.However, as with any injured player, his loss is someone else’s gain, and on this occasion, Arturo Vidal will be licking his lips at the upcoming set of fixtures.
After an early season spat where he made it clear he wasn’t at the club to make up the numbers, the Chilean has settled down and is happy with his lot. He’ll be a lot happier now as he’ll have the chance to be a protagonist in some of Barca’s biggest matches of the campaign too.
None more so than against Real Madrid in the return leg, and also the league match which follows just a few days afterwards.
You see, Vidal has an irrational hatred of Los Blancos thanks to previous Champions League campaigns where the Spaniards have been drawn against Bayern Munich, Vidal’s old team.
Refereeing decisions going against the Bavarians, nonsensical bookings for them and none when they’ve been deserved for Real.
Perhaps the worst decision of the lot was when, in a crucial second leg in which Bayern were on top, Vidal fairly won the ball from Marco Asensio (pictured) but was then sent off by the official.
It left the Bavarians light in the middle of the park and they subsequently succumbed against Real, and Vidal has never made any secret of his bitterness over that night.
Whilst he’ll have to keep his famous temper under wraps, he will offer a much more physical presence than Arthur, and will fight tooth and nail for every ball.
In fact, just like Paulinho’s signing a season before, Vidal has quickly become a cult hero with the fans because of his passion, his energy and his will to win.
He may not be the type of player that’s normally associated with the Blaugrana, but there are certainly games where a little more steel is required. Not to mention a supplementary presence in attack, something Arthur has only offered occasionally.
There are big games before the double header of course, with Sevilla and Lyon springing immediately to mind.
As long as Vidal doesn’t try too hard and end up injuring himself in the process, then this period of games could really define his first season at the Camp Nou… and he’d like nothing better than to get one over on a team that lives on in his worst footballing nightmares.