Lionel Messi suffered a ruptured adductor in his groin to rule him out of the next three weeks, with Barcelona manager Luis Enrique claiming the blow means “football loses”.
Messi limped out of Barcelona’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night just before the hour mark, and he faces a race against time to be fit for the Champions League clash with Manchester City at the Nou Camp on 19 October.
With Messi sidelined, Barcelona risk conceding more ground to Real Madrid in the La Liga battle, although their bitter rivals could only manage a 1-1 draw against Villarreal on Wednesday as they failed to take advantage of Barcelona’s draw. The Catalans sit three points behind Real, who lead the way in La Liga by two points over Sevilla.
“To lose Lionel Messi means football loses and we lose,” said Barcelona head coach Enrique.
He added: “Now we have to look for other solutions. With Leo we are much stronger, but without him we are still a strong team.
“Last year we had an unfortunate situation with a longer-term injury and my team played well.”
The injury will force 29-year-old Messi out of Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Paraguay next month as well as Barcelona’s second Champions League group match against Borussia Monchengladbach next week, although he could return in time to face City in what would be a reunion with Pep Guardiola.
Messi will also miss league matches against Sporting Gijon and Celta Vigo.
He suffered last season from a hamstring injury that kept him out of 10 matches over October and November, although Barcelona coped extremely well without him as Neymar and Luis Suarez inspired the side to claim eight victories during the run without Messi.
Suarez believes that the pair can do the same this time around, although the trio were held out by Atletico as Ivan Rakitic scored for Barcelona last night only for Atletico’s Angel Correa to equalise soon after Messi’s departure.
“It is a difficult injury that hurts and leaves you sad,” said Suarez. “Now we have to take responsibility.”