Samuel Umtiti injury leaves Barcelona short in defence as Clasico looms
BARCELONA — Samuel Umtiti will undergo tests on a hamstring injury this weekend as Barcelona face a defensive crisis with just three weeks to go until the Clasico against Real Madrid.
Umtiti pulled up on the touchline as he competed for the ball with Iago Aspas in Barca’s 2-2 La Liga draw against Celta Vigo at Camp Nou on Saturday.
As Aspas raced away, eventually setting up Maxi Gomez for his side’s equalising goal, Umtiti signalled to the bench that he would be unable to continue.
Thomas Vermaelen, who had started Barca’s last two games, replaced the France international.
Mundo Deportivo has reported that Umtiti is expected to be out for eight weeks but Barca coach Ernesto Valverde told his postmatch news conference: “I’ve not spoken with Sam yet.
“There will be tests [on Sunday] and then we will get confirmation of how long he’s out for. We think it’s a hamstring tear, but let’s wait. I don’t know how long. It will be more than one week for sure, but I’m not a doctor. Let’s wait and see what the tests say.”
Reflecting on the result, he added: “It was a well-fought game but it’s two points dropped. They started well and we struggled to get into the game in the first 15, 20 minutes. We woke up after their goal and got the equaliser. From there, we began to dominate the game and in the second half got ourselves in front.
“It looked more like 3-1 than 2-1 but then came that unfortunate moment, the injury to Samuel. We have chances to win the game but it wasn’t to be. That’s football sometimes.
“We had chances to go 3-1 up. That moment [the injury and equaliser] has cost us two points. In normal circumstances you have an extra defender. Samuel had to pull out of the race. But we still tried. We had Pique hitting the post, Paco Alcacer’s header, Paulinho and Leo’s chances…
“It was an accumulation of bad luck in the same play. There was the goal and the injury. The game was there.”
With Javier Mascherano also out for the next few weeks with a hamstring strain picked up on international duty, Valverde is left with just two fit central defenders in Vermaelen and Gerard Pique.
Barca B’s David Costas, who made his first-team debut in the Copa del Rey win over Real Murcia in midweek, is also an option.
Next up for Valverde’s side are Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League on Tuesday at Camp Nou, although they can afford to field their fringe players with top spot already wrapped up.
Upcoming league games away at Villarreal (Dec. 10), at home to Deportivo La Coruna (Dec. 17) and away to Madrid (Dec. 23) will carry far bigger concerns, though.
Umtiti has been in fine form this season and has arguably been Barca’s move impressive centre-back.
Pique, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down season, while Vermaelen has made just three starts following a series of major injuries since joining the club in 2014.
Celta took the lead at Camp Nou through Aspas before goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez looked to have set Barca on their way to another three points.
But Gomez’s second-half goal earned a point for the Galicians as Juan Carlos Unzue, Luis Enrique’s former assistant, made a successful return to Catalonia.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.