Messi and Umtiti return in time for Real Betis visit

Lionel Messi and Samuel Umtiti have been included in Ernesto Valverde’s squad to face Real Betis on Saturday after injury lay-offs.

Messi, who fractured his arm three weeks ago against Sevilla, returned to training over a week ago but had to sit out the trips to Rayo Vallecano and Inter.

Barcelona have been without Umtiti since the end of September but the Frenchman is back in contention after a knee injury.

Former Barça defender Marc Bartra returns to the Camp Nou to face his former side as Betis look for their first league win since September.

In his pre-match press conference, Valverde confirmed the return of Messi and Umtiti as he previewed the visit of Betis.

“Es muy útil que vuelvan los dos. Sabemos el partido que nos encontraremos mañana contra el Betis, que es un equipo agresivo, que no deja jugar y lucha por tener el balón.”

“Their returns are very useful. We know the game we’re facing tomorrow against Betis, who are an aggressive team that don’t stop playing and fight for the ball.”

Valverde was keen to acknowledge the performances of new signing Clement Lenglet in Umtiti’s absence at the back.

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“Es una gran noticia el rendimiento que ha ofrecido Lenglet durante la baja de Umtiti. Ya veremos mañana quién juega. Es una alegría que estemos bien cubiertos juegue quien juegue.”

“Lenglet’s performances have been great during Umtiti’s injury. We will see who plays tomorrow. It’s a joy that we are so well covered whoever plays.”

Lionel Messi could feature for the first time in five games for Barcelona but Valverde isn’t sure how long his captain can play for just yet.

“Veremos mañana, pero él ya le ha perdido el miedo a la caída, al apoyo, al forcejeo con el rival. Eso era lo principal. Este tipo de lesiones limita en este sentido. Le veo bien, seguro.”

“We will see tomorrow [whether Messi can play 90 minutes], but he has already lost the fear of the fall, of the support, of the struggle with the rival. This is the main thing. These types of injuries limit this feeling. He’s doing well, for sure.”

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The Barcelona boss refused to openly criticise Ousmane Dembele following reports that the youngster was late for training again this week. The 21-year-old has been dropped for the visit of Betis as a result but Valverde cooled any reports of a bust-up.

“No pierdo la paciencia con él. Cada uno lo puede interpretar como quiera. Esto es un equipo. A veces van convocados unos y a veces otros.”

“I’m not losing patience with him. You can interpret it as you want. This is a team. Sometimes players are included and sometimes others are.”

Former Barcelona centre back and La Masia academy product Marc Bartra returns to the Camp Nou on the back of negative comments from his manager in a radio interview this week. Quique Setién told ‘RAC 1’ that Bartra “has to improve” and that he struggles to “control his emotions” during matches.

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