Stung knee injury leaves Barcelona in defensive whammy ahead of Champions League

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Barcelona have confirmed Gerard Pique sprained his knee in Saturday's 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid as the club's injury crisis in defense worsened.

Pique, 33, will have further tests when he returns to Barcelona on Sunday to determine the severity of the problem. The club's sources were unwilling to speculate on how long his absence was, but various media reports in Catalonia suggested it would be weeks or even months.

Right-back Sergi Roberto will also have control over a hamstring injury that occurred in the closing stages of Saturday's game.

Pique's loss leaves Barca with only one fit center-back – Clement Lenglet – for Tuesday's trip to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League. Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo are also currently sidelined with fitness issues.

For the fourth time in the last five games, midfielder Frenkie de Jong ended the loss to Atletico as a makeshift defender. The Netherlands international is expected to continue there in Kiev, although coach Ronald Koeman could also seek reinforcements from the B squad.

Koeman is also currently without Sergio Busquets and Ansu Fati, who are also injured.

Saturday's setback in Madrid was Barca's third loss in just eight league appearances this season. They are in 10th place in the standings with only 11 points.

“Like any coach, I am responsible,” Koeman said when asked who was to blame for Barca's scorching run of results. “I will continue to trust my players, but there are things we need to improve in defense and attack. We have to win a series of games. ”

Yannick Carrasco scored the only goal of the game at Wanda Metropolitano after errors from Pique, before getting injured, and goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen.

Koeman was furious in the manner of the goal, which came just before half-time, but didn't want to isolate anyone to criticize. “The way we conceded the goal in the first half stoppage time is worrying,” he said. “A great team can't concede a goal like this. It can't happen.

“I don't want to blame the players individually. It's a time when you should never concede, when you have the ball. It was a big blow because we did well in the first half. We have controlled the game. We know it is difficult. create chances against Atletico but at 0-0 it's completely different. “

Atletico's victory, their first against Barca in the league since 2010, put them nine points away from the Blaugrana.

“It's a big gap but there is a long way to go in the league and a lot of games,” Koeman said. “We know every game is tough. But after this game we now have to have a very good race. ”

As Barca struggle, Atletico have made an encouraging start to the season. They are undefeated in eight games and, with 20 points, lead with Real Sociedad despite being one game less.

Their form drew parallels with the 2013-14 title-winning team, although Simeone was keen to cancel comparisons between the two teams.

“No, no, I don't know,” he said at a press conference when asked if he could see any similarities between the sides. “Most important is the growth of so many players from last season to this one. You can see it.

“We need everyone, we need Felipe, who doesn't have so many minutes, we need [Renan] Lodi who is an important player for us, [Geoffrey] Kondogbia has entered, Saul Niguez is growing up, [Angel] Correa is showing tremendous growth, and that's not to mention [Joao] Felix or what Diego Costa did when he walked in for 15 minutes, the whole group.

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