Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman offered an update on his team’s defensive injury crisis at his pre-match news conference ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League group game at Ferencvaros.
The Catalan giants are without Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, and Ronald Araujo for the trip to Hungary due to injury, although Koeman has been able to include Clement Lenglet in his squad after the Frenchman shook off an ankle problem.
Koeman is also optimistic about Umtiti and Araujo’s fitness and said both players are close to making their return to action for the first team.
Umtiti is close to a return. We’ve got a match tomorrow for him with Barcelona B which he can play. Araujo has trained part of the session with the group today but we don’t want to risk his recovery because he’s not yet 100%. He still has a little bit to go. If he isn’t with us against Juventus, he will surely be there in the next game [against Levante].
Umtiti has been out of action with knee problems and has not featured for Barca since June’s La Liga draw with Celta Vigo, while Araujo has been sidelined with a hamstring problem picked up in the Champions League win over Juventus.
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Pique Working on Recovery
Koeman also offered an update on Pique who is expected to miss the next four months with a serious knee injury. The center-back has opted against having surgery on his injury and will instead undergo a conservative treatment plan, as reported by AS.
The Barcelona boss was unwilling to offer a date when Pique might finally be back in action but insisted he has not been ruled out for the rest of the 2020-21 season yet.
I speak with Pique every day because he’s at the training ground to work with us and to improve but I’m not a doctor and I don’t have any influence on his final decision about whether to have an operation. The doctors are there for that and Gerard. We have to think of the best way for him to recover from this injury. I don’t know when we’ll be able to count on him but I hope he’ll be back for some games this season.
Barca’s defensive injuries have provided 21-year-old Oscar Mingueza with some first-team opportunities. The youngster has started Barca’s last two matches against Dynamo Kiev and Osasuna and could keep his place against Ferencvaros.
Koeman Rues Barca’s Bad Luck with Injuries
Koeman has also had to deal with injuries further forward. Teenager Ansu Fati is out for several months after undergoing knee surgery, but the Barca boss says the club’s injury problems do not necessarily mean they will spend in the next transfer window.
For me it’s just bad luck. We’ve spoken in the pre-season about our squad and also about the economic situation which has had an influence. We have to use who we have and give opportunities to youngsters like Araujo and Mingueza. There’s always a reason for us to give opportunities because they are the future and if we can’t improve by signing new players or there’s no money we have to give chances to younger players.
The Barcelona line-up for Wednesday’s match is expected to include plenty of youngsters as Koeman rotates his squad with qualification already assured. Mingueza has been joined in the squad by Barca B team-mates Inaki Pena, Arnau Tenas, and Konrad de la Fuente.