BARCELONA

Umtiti aiming to return against Olympique Lyon on 19 February

Umtiti aiming to return against Olympique Lyon on 19 February

Barça's French centre-back has set the Last 16 Champions League tie as his priority to return to the first team completely recovered from his knee troubles.

Samuel Umtiti has circled 19 February on his calendar as the date he has set himself to return to first team action with Barcelona. Because on that day, Barça will play the first leg of their Champions League Last 16 tie against Olympique Lyonnais. The French central defender would hate to miss such a special game against his former club and will be working flat out from now until then to make sure he has fully recovered from the problems he has been experiencing with his left knee.

Samuel Umtiti

Special game

One of the main reasons why Umtiti has ruled out, for a second time, the chance to sort out his knee troubles by a trip to the operating table is because he is keen to be back at full fitness for the Lyon game. The player is well aware that it won't be easy for him to be back available and match fit by mid-February.

It will entail continuing the conservative recovery programme he started in Doha on 2 December. Umtiti is due back at the Ciutat Esportiva on 30 December to resume the process. Ahead of him, lies three weeks' of individual work to build back strength in his left knee before he will be even considered to return to train as normal with the rest of the squad.

Pains have gone

Then he will have to wait two weeks to see whether he enters a squad list - and is lucky enough to play... But for the time being, Umtiti is full of optimism and prepared to overcome any obstacle that comes his way. He has good reason to feel upbeat - the tests he was subjected to in Barcelona on Sunday showed that his knee is responding and the pains have gone. But he still has a way to go to convince medical staff he is able to return to first team action without the possibility of a relapse. Both the player and the club don't want a repeat of what happened in last month's game against Atlético de Madrid when the twinges reappeared and the defender had to stop. Umtiti knows that if he can't resolve his knee issues by conservative methods, he will have no option to undergo surgery and wave the season goodbye.

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