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Valverde downplays Umtiti injury fears

Barcelona (AFP) – Ernesto Valverde is optimistic the knee injury suffered by Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti will not prove serious. 

Umtiti missed training on Friday ahead of Barca’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. 

“We are going to see for the following game, if we can recover him in time. In principle we think he will be with us again soon.” 

Umtiti’s absence against Bilbao and Spurs will likely mean Clement Lenglet, a summer signing from Seville, partnering Gerard Pique 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 Leganes snatch a shock 2-1 win on Wednesday. 

Asked about Pique’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 Atletico, who play each other on Saturday, to close the gap at the top of La Liga. 

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

“Of course we need the points,” Valverde said. “Any team needs the points but for us even more so, because every team Barcelona loses, there is an earthquake.” 

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