Barcelona centre-back Thomas Vermaelen will miss the crucial Copa del Rey quarter-final second-leg tie against Espanyol on Thursday (25 January) after scans confirmed that the Belgium international will be sidelined for around two weeks due to a hamstring injury.
The 32-year-old defender began the campaign as Ernesto Valverde’s fourth-choice centre-back but took advantage of the long-term absences of Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano to establish himself as a key member of the squad.
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However, Vermaelen will be unable to continue his impressive form in the coming games after suffering a new hamstring injury during Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.
The Belgian started alongside Gerard Pique in the heart of the back-line but was replaced by Umtiti in the 41st minute.
Subsequent scans performed on Monday morning confirmed the worst for Valverde, with Vermaelen now set to miss the upcoming derby with Espanyol.
“FC Barcelona’s medical services have confirmed that Thomas Vermaelen has a hamstring injury in his left leg and tests on Monday have ascertained that the Belgian defender will be out for around 2 weeks,” the La Liga giants confirmed.
Valverde still took some positive news from the game as Umtiti was able to play more than 45 minutes and looked fully fit despite having missed almost two months due to another hamstring injury.
The France international is expected to start against Espanyol on Thursday, when Barcelona will try to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit to go through to the semi-finals.
Andres Iniesta, Mascherano, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé all missed the win over Betis due to various injuries.However, the first three may have a chance to return to action against Espanyol after completing part of a training session on Monday.
“The first session of the week was a recovery one for the players who started against Betis at the Ciutat Esportiva. Andrés Iniesta and Javier Mascherano also trained alongside their team mates on Monday,” Barcelona added.
“The coaching staff also included Aleñá, Kaptoum, Dani Morer, Samu Araujo and Hongla in the session from Gerard López’s B squad as well as Iñaki Peña from the U19 squad.”
Coutinho also appeared in the pictures of the training session provided by Barcelona after Valverde suggested last week that the Brazilian could make his debut in the crucial derby.
“I’m reluctant to put an exact date on a start for Coutinho, but the progress of the injury is very positive,” he said in a press conference ahead of the trip to Betis.
“He had a small muscular problem in his quadriceps, which is a particularly sensitive zone when striking the ball with power, but I hope he’s soon with us. Thursday is possible and I hope that today he can train with the rest of the squad.”