Samuel Umtiti is edging closer to making a return to action but Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde suggests that the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Espanyol on Wednesday night [17 January] will come too soon for the France international.

Umtiti has become a key player for the La Liga giants since moving to the Nou Camp from Lyon in the summer of 2016.

The 24-year-old centre-back enjoyed an impressive start to the current season but has been out of action since suffering a hamstring injury during the Barcelona's draw against Celta Vigo on 2 December.

The La Liga giants then ruled him out for around two months but Valverde provided positive news over the Frenchman's recovery during a press conference held on Tuesday evening [16 January] ahead Barcelona's Copa del Rey trip to Espanyol.

"I think tomorrow [the Espanyol clash] could be a little bit soon but he is very well. I will not say a date but he will certainly be back soon," the Barcelona boss said ahead of a busy week which will see the Catalans facing their neighbours in the Copa del Rey before a La Liga trip to Real Betis on Sunday.

The news is a timely boost for the Barcelona fans after on Monday [15 January] the club revealed that Ousmane Dembele and Andres Iniesta had returned to the Catalan's treatment table due to fresh muscle injuries.

The 20-year-old winger is expected to be out of action for around "three to four weeks" after suffering a hamstring injury during the 4-2 victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday [14 January].

The France starlet had only recently recovered from another serious hamstring injury which kept him on the sidelines for three-and-a-half months.

But Valverde tried to play down the concerns of the fans after pointing out that that the new blow is much less serious than the previous one.

"Dembele suffered a significant incident at the start of the season in Getafe and now he has a small problem, that has little to do with the previous one," Valverde estated ahead of the Barcelona derby with Espanyol.

"We won't overdramatise. People start to talk about how some players have an issue and in the end people start believing it. I have no doubt that the player will overcome it. We will do all we can to make sure this ends up as an anecdote. He had been playing little bits of matches as he returned and the plan for him was to come back little by little. It'll be the same when he returns from this one. We hope that he's not missing for long."

Iniesta has also been plagued by varying injuries during the opening half of the season but Valverde was also optimistic about his latest problem

"I would like to have everyone fit and that Andres did not have those small problems but this is the situation. He has not missed many games, we try to take care of him and he also takes care of himself. He knows how to control himself and what we try is to avoid an injury which could keep him out for two months," the Barcelona boss added.

Elsewhere, Valverde also confirmed that Yerry Mina will also miss the trip to Espanyol as Barcelona are yet to receive the necessary paperwork for the new signing to make his debut.

"Mina does not have the work permit and he will not be able to play tomorrow," Valverde said. "If he had the transfer, I do not know if I would hand him his debut. I do not waste my time in thinking in those things because he is not available. He has been welcomed by the dressing room. He will add new things to the group but there is a lot of competitive in the squad. His performances [will determine] how much he plays but we hope for him to have a long-term career at the club."

Samuel Umtiti
Samuel Umtiti could be back before the end of the month. Getty