Lionel Messi, Samuel Umtiti in Barcelona Squad vs. Betis; Ousmane Dembele Out

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2018

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) celebrates with Barcelona's French defender Samuel Umtiti (2ndL) after scoring his team's third goal during the Spanish league football match between Barcelona and Alaves at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 18, 2018. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Barcelona have included Lionel Messi and Samuel Umtiti in their squad for their La Liga showdown with Real Betis on Sunday, but Ousmane Dembele has been left out.

The Blaugrana confirmed the players available for the match at the Camp Nou on the eve of the fixture:

Messi has not featured for Barcelona since Oct. 20, when he fractured his arm against Sevilla. Despite being in the squad for the UEFA Champions League clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, he was not involved in the game.

Barcelona supporters will also be pleased to see Umtiti back from his layoff. He's not been in action since Sept. 26, when Leganes beat the Catalan giants 2-1.

The defender posted the following in the buildup to the contest, suggesting he's ready to be involved again:

The surprising omission comes in the form of Dembele, a player around whom rumours are rife.

According to RAC1, the club spent 90 minutes trying to get in touch with him on Thursday after he didn't show up on time for training (h/t Sport). Barcelona are said to have then sent their club doctors to check on his status, and he was confirmed to have gastroenteritis.

Samuel Marsden of ESPN FC reported that Dembele trained alone on Friday, but according to Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, the decision to leave him out against Betis is not solely because of his illness:

As the Spanish Football Podcast relayed, there's been a lot of focus on the France international in the Catalan press of late:

Dembele arrived at Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017 and was rated as one of the most exciting rising stars in the game.

However, an injury early in his Blaugrana career proved to be a significant setback, and he's struggled to find consistency since. While he's netted five goals and grabbed an assist this season, the winger's propensity for losing the ball cheaply is frustrating, and his attitude has come into question at times too.

Rafael Hernandez of Barcelona fan site Grup 14 thinks Dembele is beginning to rile some key figures in the Camp Nou dressing room:

While Barcelona have coped well without Messi in recent weeks, with Luis Suarez stepping in as the leader in attack, his return will obviously be a huge positive. He already has seven goals and five assists from his nine La Liga outings this term.

Umtiti's return is vital too, especially with Gerard Pique's struggles for form in 2018-19. The Frenchman was Barca's standout defender last season and agreed a new long-term contract with the club in June.

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