Squad depth is one of the most important facets of a football team. Although that importance tends to vary, teams that compete at the very top level of football see squad depth as the foremost requirement in order to stay competitive in the hunt for multiple titles in a single season. As such, Real Madrid and Barcelona are no different.
Both teams are competing in different competitions with the aim of eventual triumph at the end of the season with the (quality in) squad depth playing a vital role in making sure they reach their goals.
Competition has been particularly fierce this time around with both Spanish giants tied at 28 points in the La Liga and Barcelona only on top due to more goals scored (Skysports).
The El Clasico is only a few weeks away and while that could be the first real chance for either side to clearly go top, Real Madrid could have other strong points to capitalise on in the course of the season.
That being said, this season both Barcelona and Real Madrid have been unlucky with injuries to key players at different points of this season.
As per Standard, Real Madrid have been without Marco Asensio, Eden Hazard, Luka Modric, Isco, James Rodriguez, Luka Jovic, Marcelo, Fede Valverde, Brahim Diaz, Rodrygo, Thibaut Courtois, Gareth Bale, Ferland Mendy, and Nacho at different points of this season.
Barcelona on the other hand, have lost Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Junior Firpo, Ansu Fati, and Neto at one point in time this season.
This has made the start of the season rather topsy-turvy for both teams, but Real Madrid seem to have finally found the balance while Barcelona are still struggling.
Barcelona right now are without Jordi Alba, Clement Lenglet and Nelson Semedo and it is evident the impact those injuries are having and will continue to have, especially with Lenglet and Alba.
In their absences, Junior Firpo and Samuel Umtiti fill in those positions. Samuel Umtiti who has played only three league games this season recently returned from a long time out with injury and is yet to be tested in a big game, though he has been steady in the last two games.
Junior Firpo has not really convinced many of his abilities. The former Betis man had enormous shoes to fill and he has barely executed at left-back for Barcelona. Valverde did try to play Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto at that position but that didn’t work out either. Now that Semedo is injured, they are stuck with him for the foreseeable future.
These injuries have also affected them in attack and fortuitously has brought about the emergence of Ansu Fati. Some onlookers will say that some of Barcelona’s squad depth comes from the youth team as well, but as far as the team is concerned, Ansu Fati (who has been injured at some point this season) and Carles Perez are as good as it gets for them.
Real Madrid (as stated previously) have had their injury problems but have weathered the storm due to their strength in depth.
Right now, they are without Marco Asensio, Nacho, James Rodriguez and Lucas Vazquez but have barely felt any of these absences.
They haven’t had Asensio at all this season but the presence of Eden Hazard and Vinicius Junior have provided sufficient cover.
Probably their strongest position is in midfield. James Rodriguez had been a regular feature in that position before he got injured but in his absence, we have seen Federico Valverde come to the fore and do well. They also still have Luka Modric, Isco, Toni Kroos, Casemiro, and Brahim Diaz in that position.
Where Barcelona make the argument of youngsters, Real can also boast of Rodrygo and Federico Valverde stepping up and making a huge impact with the former keeping Gareth Bale out of the team.
Madrid have cover of at least two players in every position and the competition is fierce. In central defence are where they have the highest advantage over Barcelona.
Real are also lucky to have durable centre-halves in Varane and Ramos, but still have Elder Militao in reserve even with Nacho injured compared to Barcelona who have only two recognized central defenders right now.
Already, we have seen Barcelona without Lionel Messi and how vulnerable they can be without their talisman up front and at his age, there is a chance such an injury can occur again. With the business end of the season which includes the Champions League knockout games to come, they will be praying that this is not the case.
Injuries are an inevitable part of the sport without doubt, but the strength, as well as quality in depth, is important to fill in the gaps left, and Real Madrid on paper and on the pitch have this advantage over Barcelona.