Barcelona confirmed on Thursday that center-back Ronald Araujo has been ruled out of action with a hamstring injury picked up on international duty with Uruguay.
The injury saw Araujo forced to leave the Uruguay squad early and return to Barcelona where tests have revealed the nature of the injury. The Catalan giants confirmed the news on the club’s official website.
“Tests undertaken this morning confirmed that first team player, Ronald Araujo, has a right hamstring injury, making him unavailable for selection,” read a statement. “The medical team will monitor how his injury evolves.”
Araujo has suffered a hamstring tear and is expected to miss “2-3 weeks” and some key games because of the injury, according to Javi Miguel at Diario AS. The defender will miss Barca’s matches against Valencia, Dinamo Kiev, and Real Madrid.
Miguel adds that the earliest Araujo could return is for the trip to Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday, October 27. The news is a real blow for coach Ronald Koeman as Araujo has started the season well and become a key player for the Catalan giants.
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Koeman Has Defensive Decisions To Make
Araujo’s injury means Koeman has some big decisions to make regarding his starting XI for a tricky run of games where he can ill-afford to see his team drop points after a disappointing start.
Eric Garcia looks the most likely player to replace Araujo against Valencia and partner Gerard Pique in central defense. However, the Spain international will not be able to play against Dynamo Kiev due to suspension.
Clement Lenglet, Oscar Mingueza, Samuel Umtiti, and even midfielder Frenkie de Jong are all options to play in defense in the Champions League. Koeman could even spring a surprise and switch formation to use three center-backs.
Barcelona In Need Of Clasico Win
Garcia could then return for El Clasico in a game Barca will feel they must win if they are to challenge for the title. Real Madrid are already five points clear of their Catalan rivals but have played a game extra.
Koeman is still searching for his first Clasico victory as Barcelona coach after overseeing two defeats last season. Real Madrid won 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu and 3-1 at the Camp Nou.
The game could also prove decisive with regards Koeman’s future at Barcelona, according to Luis F. Rojo at Marca. If results and performances have not improved by the crunch game against Los Blancos then the Dutchman may be sacked.
President Joan Laporta has publicly backed Koeman over the international break and says the team will improve once Barca’s injured players return.
He said, “We can all understand the reactions because we are not getting results, but I ask the supporters to have some confidence in the coach, he deserves it, and to have faith in this team because when everyone is available they will be even more competitive.
Ansu Fati has already returned after 10 months out with a knee injury, while Sergio Aguero is expected to make his comeback against Valencia, and the duo should add some much-needed firepower to the Barca attack.