Valverde downplays Umtiti injury fears

Samuel Umtiti recently suffered a knee injury. (AFP pic)

BARCELONA: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is optimistic the knee injury suffered by Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti will not prove serious.

Umtiti missed training on Friday ahead of Barça’s game at home to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, with the club confirming his left knee as the problem.

Reports in the Spanish press suggested Umtiti could be out for a period of months but Valverde has indicated the Frenchman could return even against Valencia on October 7.

In between, Umtiti was already missing Wednesday’s Champions League game against Tottenham through suspension.

“He has discomfort in his knee and he cannot play on Wednesday anyway,” Valverde said.

Umtiti’s absence against Bilbao and Spurs will likely mean Clement Lenglet, a summer signing from Seville, will partner Gerard Piqué in defence. Thomas Vermaelen is another option.

Lenglet, however, was sent off on his first start for the club against Girona last weekend while Pique is enduring a dip in form after his error helped Leganés snatch a shock 2-1 win on Wednesday.

Asked about Piqué’s focus, Valverde said: “I see that he is very focused on football.”

Five points dropped in two games has also allowed Real Madrid and Atlético, who play each other on Saturday, to close the gap at the top of La Liga.

Real Madrid are below Barça only on goal difference, while Atléti are now just two points back.