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Vermaelen out a month, compounding Barcelona defensive woes

FC Barcelona v Cultural Leonesa - Copa del Rey - Fourth Round

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Thomas Vermaelen of FC Barcelona conducts the ball during the Copa del Rey fourth round second leg match between FC Barcelona and Cultural Leonesa at Camp Nou on December 05, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

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Barcelona’s back line has been forced to dig deep of late, and they’ll be digging even deeper with the news that center-back Thomas Vermaelen will miss a month with a calf injury.

The La Liga leaders announced that Vermaelen would miss approximately four weeks with a torn calf muscle, meaning he would be healthy to return sometime around mid-January. Barcelona has league games against Eibar on the 13th and Leganes on the 20th, with the second leg of a Copa del Rey Round of 16 matchup against Levante sandwiched in between.

Vermaelen hasn’t exactly been a heavily used player this season, nor throughout his Barcelona career, but his presence of late had become vital after Samuel Umtiti went down in late September with a long-term knee injury. Vermaelen himself had just returned from a hamstring injury, playing his first minutes since early October on Sunday. However, he was forced off after 52 minutes in the 5-0 win over Eibar, sidelined yet again.

The 33-year-old has been plagued by injuries his entire career, known first at Arsenal and again at Barcelona for his struggles to stay on the field. Vermaelen missed time last year with knee, leg, and hip injuries that held him to just over 1,500 total minutes across all competitions.

In addition, full-backs Sergi Roberto and Nelson Semedo are struggling with injuries. Manager Ernesto Valverde had decided to utilize a back-three against Eibar to cover for the lack of full-backs, with Clement Lenglet in as the third, but after Vermaelen went down,, central midfielder Arthur was brought on, leaving Lenglet to partner with Gerard Pique at the back and switching to a tradtitional back-four. While Jordi Alba was easily able to switch back to his traditional left-back spot, the absence of both Roberto and Semedo leaves no true right-back available for the more traditional formation.

With the absences, it would be surprising if Barcelona did not bring in cover during the January transfer window to ease the injury woes.

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