• Versatile defender sprained the external ligaments in his left ankle during 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid.
  • Catalans remain one point behind Real Madrid in the table ahead of their Wednesday's clash with Sporting Gijon.

Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu is set for a spell on the sidelines after spraining the external ligaments in his left ankle during the 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid on Sunday (26 February). The news is a blow for Luis Enrique, ahead of a busy week in their La Liga pursuit of Real Madrid – as the Catalans host Sporting Gijon on Wednesday before a weekend encounter with Celta Vigo.

Mathieu, 33, made a rare starting appearance in the crucial encounter with Atletico Madrid as Javier Mascherano was injured and Luis Enrique opted to deploy a 3-4-3 formation to stop Antoine Griezmann and co.

The decision paid off as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 thanks to Lionel Messi's late goal to keep the heat on Real Madrid in the La Liga title race – still only one point behind Los Blancos, who still have one game in hand.

But the injury-prone France centre-back is expected to miss the coming games after being forced off and replaced by Lucas Digne in the 77<sup>th minute of the game.

"Jérémy Mathieu was substituted at the Vicente Calderón after a nasty clash with Ángel Correa. The outcome is that the French defender has sprained external ligaments in his left ankle, although further rests will be required to determine the full extent of the injury and the recovery time," Barcelona confirmed, following the victory over Los Colchoneros.

"The 33 year old started the 2-1 win at Atlético Madrid in the left back position, his tenth Liga start of the season and twelfth in all competitions. It's not been a kind campaign for him fitness-wise, because he was also side-lined for two months at the start of the season."

Mathieu was forced off during the 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid Getty

Barcelona have failed to set a time frame until further scans have been made of the player's injuries but initial reports in Spain are suggesting Mathieu could be out for between two and three weeks.

This would automatically rule the defender out for the two La Liga encounters Sporting and Celta but also for the second leg of the Champions League last 16 with PSG – to be played on Wednesday 8 February.

The victory at the Vicente Calderon saw the Catalans briefly hitting the top of La Liga before Real Madrid recovered the leadership with a controversial victory over Villarreal later on Sunday. Yet, the coming days could be crucial in the race for the title as, while Barcelona face Celta and Sporting at home, Los Blancos host Las Palmas on Wednesday before a complicated trip to Eibar on weekend.

Mathieu's potential absence would be a blow for the manager, if he planned to keep the 3-4-3 formation in the coming games. However, Mascherano, who has missed the last four games due to an injury, is expected to return soon to ease those concerns.