Umtiti, Iniesta injuries rub salt into Barca wounds
Barcelona’s failure to beat Celta Vigo in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Camp Nou on Saturday was compounded by injuries to Samuel Umtiti and captain Andres Iniesta.
With just three weeks to go until Barca face Real Madrid in the first El Clasico of the season at the Santiago Bernabeu, Umtiti, in particular, faces a race to be fit for December 23.
In doubly bad luck for Barca, the French international pulled up with a hamstring injury to allow Iago Aspas to sprint in behind the Barca defence and tee up Maxi Gomez to hand Celta a share of the points 20 minutes from time.
“It was a series of unfortunate incidents in the one move,” lamented Barca boss Ernesto Valverde.
Umtiti has been a rock at the heart of the Barca defence as the Catalans had conceded just six goals in their previous 20 games prior to Celta’s visit.
“We think it is a tear. He has spoken to the doctors but we will have to see the tests tomorrow to discover the extent of the injury,” added Valverde.
“It is a problem to lose an important player like Samuel, who was in great form.”
Iniesta also asked to be replaced just five minutes into the second-half.
However, Valverde is more optimistic that his absence won’t be a prolonged one.
“He asked for the change,” said Valverde.
“We don’t know if it is a significant injury or not because he then continued to play on for a little while longer.”
Valverde can afford the luxury of resting his star men for Tuesday’s Champions League visit of Sporting Lisbon with top spot in Group D already assured.
Barca do, though, face a tricky trip to Villarreal next weekend before hosting Deportivo la Coruna ahead of the Clasico.
Celta became the first visiting side in La Liga to take anything away from the Camp Nou since Real Madrid a year ago.
“They took advantage of counter-attacks and our mistakes, it is a shame,” said Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets.
– Stunning save –
Aspas sprung Barca’s offside trap to put Celta in front on the break after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had produced a stunning save from Gomez after 20 minutes.
However, Barca went on to dominate the rest of the game and turned the match around thanks to goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez before Umtiti’s unfortunate injury.
“We showed more, we went for the game more and we were more intense, but football is like this,” added Busquets.
“It’s not about what is fair, it is about who scores most goals.
“They scored twice, they were efficient and got a point.”
Barca did remain unbeaten and opened a five-point lead at the top over Valencia.
However, Valencia can whittle that down to two points with victory at Getafe on Sunday.
Real and Atletico Madrid can close to within six points of the leaders with victory over Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad respectively later on Saturday.