Victor Valdes could be out for six weeks as Barcelona injury list lengthens

Xavi and Cristian Tello are doubts for the weekend, while Lionel Messi is expected to be out until the new year

The sight of Victor Valdes limping off during Spain's surprise defeat by South Africa on Tuesday is another headache for Barcelona as injuries threaten to hamper the Catalan side's impressive start to the season.

The early signs are that the keeper, who is set to leave after this campaign when his contract ends, will miss Saturday's La Liga visit of Granada and he could be out for up to six weeks if a calf tear is confirmed when he arrives back at the club.

The friendly in South Africa began as a night of nostalgia with Spain back at the scene of their 2010 World Cup triumph in Johannesburg but they lost 1-0 with a midfield that struggled to link-up and an attack that lacked a cutting edge.

Andres Iniesta was one of the few Spanish players to come out of the game at the Soccer City stadium with any credit in a team missing a string of other Barcelona men.

Midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas were unavailable, with the former a doubt for this weekend's match, while in defence Gerard Pique was missing along with Jordi Alba, who is in the final stages of recovery from a thigh injury.

Barca coach Tata Martino also has to deal with the absence of World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who was injured in their last league game at Real Betis, while Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano return from international duty with strains.

Cristian Tello is also injured so there could be a chance for Pedro Rodriguez, who started for Spain on Tuesday, to stake a claim for a regular place in the Barca side, having lacked his usual predatory instincts in front of goal so far this season.

Martino does have plenty of strength in depth especially going forward where he will be grateful for Neymar's quick adaptation to life at the Nou Camp, while Alexis Sanchez continued his sparkling form with two goals for Chile against England in Friday's 2-0 friendly win at Wembley.

There will be little respite for Barca until the Christmas break with Champions League games coming up away to Ajax Amsterdam and at home to Celtic, while the Spanish league leaders are being pursued by an Atletico Madrid side only three points behind them with Real Madrid three points further back.

One of their biggest concerns is likely to be in goal. The more direct style Martino has introduced this season has seen Barca with less possession and they have been vulnerable at the back where Valdes has stood out with some fine saves.

His understudy is the veteran Jose Manuel Pinto who has had little first team action over the past few seasons and is not a player the board have shown confidence in. His contract runs out at the end of the season, like Valdes, and there are no signs at this stage of a new deal being offered to him.

Pinto could leave the club with Pepe Reina, on loan at Napoli from Liverpool and who replaced the injured Valdes after 81 minutes on Tuesday, and Borussia Moenchengladbach's Marc-Andre ter Stegen, top of the list to take over as number one.

Reuters

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