The fractured hip sustained by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique during their Champions League quarter-final clash against Atletico Madrid could well hand the advantage to Diego Simeone’s side in that tie and the La Liga title race.
It’s the kind of injury you might associate with a pensioner rather than a top professional footballer, but Pique’s awkward fall after an aerial clash with Atleti striker Diego Costa has left the 27-year-old facing a month on the sidelines.
This ill-timed layoff to their defensive bedrock, with Carlos Puyol also still sidelined, couldn’t have arrived at a more pivotal moment in Barcelona’s season, as they chase glory on three fronts.
Having drawn 1-1 with Atletico at the Camp Nou, Barca are now certain to travel to the Vincente Calderon for the quarter-final second-leg stripped of their highest appearance maker of the season, making the 11/10 outsiders to qualify a much more attractive proposition.
Atletico are unbeaten at home all season in La Liga, only tasting defeat once to Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey in front of their own fans and will certainly fancy their chances of dumping out a Barca outfit arriving with a patched-up defence.
Also in a race against time to be fit for the return leg is Atletico’s top scorer, Costa, who was forced to withdraw thanks to a hamstring pull, though his club harbour realistic hopes he’ll shake off the problem.
But it’s in La Liga where Pique’s absence could have the greatest impact, given that Atletico still lead the way by one point with just seven games to left to play.
The early projections suggest Pique is in line to miss at least three crucial league games, making a punt on glory for rivals Atletico at brilliant odds of 7/2, all the more juicy.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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