Neymar was vastly missed by Barcelona in the 2-1 defeat to Deportivo La Coruña on Sunday (12 March) as the loss saw Real Madrid returning to the top of La Liga table with a win over Real Betis. However, stats revealed that Samuel Umtiti's absence from the back-line was even more important for Luis Enrique's side as the France international has become into the Catalan's real talisman since his summer arrival to the Nou Camp.
Umtiti, 22, moved to Barcelona from Lyon in a deal worth €25m (£21.8m, $26.7m) during the summer transfer window following an impressive Euro 16 campaign with France. The centre-back arrived to Luis Enrique's side with the difficult task to become into the long-term partner of Gerard Pique after Jeremy Mathieu, Thomas Vermaelen or Marc Bartra failed to fill the huge gap left by the retirement of Carlos Puyol in the heart of the defence.
Some in Spain then questioned whether Umtiti had what it takes to succeed at Barcelona following a summer in which the club had previously been linked with higher profile defenders like Paris Saint Germain's Marquinhos or Athletic Club Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte.
However, Umtiti has needed no time to prove the doubters wrong by becoming into a talisman for Barcelona in La Liga.
The stats reveal that Luis Enrique's side have won all their 16 games of La Liga when the Frenchman has played – 15 of those times doing it as a starter.
On the contrary, the latest 2-1 defeat at Deportivo without the Frecnhman doesn't look a coincidence as Barcelona have struggled in the 11 La Liga matches that Umtiti was missing either due to an injury or rest – losing three, drawing six and only winning twice.
Barcelona arrived at that game with Deportivo following an impressive run of six consecutive victories in La Liga which had helped them to overtake Real Madrid at the top of table. Umtiti played in all those games but was rested by Luis Enrique against Deportivo after he also started in the historic midweek's 6-1 victory over PSG.
But the manager's decision proved costly for Barcelona as Real Madrid took the most of it to beat Real Betis hours later and move back to the top of the table, two points ahead of the Catalans and with one game in hand.
Barcelona still have 11 games to turnaround the situation but it looks Luis Enrique will have to think twice the next time he wants to rest Umtiti. Yet, the Catalans have not won a La Liga game without the former Lyon since the 4-0 win over Deportivo themselves in October.