Barcelona have been hit by another major injury blow as center-back Ronald Araujo was forced off in the opening 10 minutes of Sunday’s La Liga clash against Real Betis.
The Uruguay international injured his ankle after landing awkwardly in the opening stages and was unable to continue. Araujo hobbled off and was replaced by midfielder Frenkie de Jong in the heart of the Barcelona defense alongside Clement Lenglet.
Barca subsequently confirmed Araujo has a sprained ankle and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of the problem.
Manager Ronald Koeman had tried to give De Jong a rest against Real Betis. The Netherlands international started on the bench, alongside Lionel Messi and Pedri, but was called into action after just 12 minutes.
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Barca Heading Into Key Fixtures
Araujo’s injury is a big blow and Barcelona will be hoping the Uruguay international is not seriously hurt with some key fixtures up next. Barca’s next match is a Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg clash against Sevilla on Wednesday.
Koeman’s men then host Alaves in La Liga on Saturday before a blockbuster Champions League last-16 tie at home to Paris Saint-Germain. The Barca boss will be keen to have his best team available for that match.
The center-back has been out since November with a knee problem but is closing in on a return to action. The 34-year-old returned to training last week for the first time since injuring his knee against Atletico Madrid.
Pique Praise for Araujo
Meanwhile, Araujo’s performances this season have cemented his place in the starting XI and drawn praise from Pique. The veteran center-back thinks his young team-mate has a big future ahead of him and will be a regular in the team for a long time, as reported by the club’s official website.
Araujo is a great centre-back, and will be for 10 or 15 years. He has everything. He is very young and has a very good head. Also, he is physically strong, fast and powerful, and has good ball control.
La Masia is working very well and during his time in Segunda B with the youth team he matured, and now with the first team he has taken the opportunity. We need to help him to be the best player possible.”
Koeman does have options at center-back if Araujo does join Pique on the sidelines with Clement Lenglet, Samuel Umtiti, and Oscar Mingueza also available. De Jong is another option in central defense. The Dutchman’s best position is in midfield but he has plenty of experience playing as a center-back for Barcelona and former club Ajax.