Barcelona has been hit with more bad news regarding Ousmane Dembele, as the French forward is not expected to be fit in time for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Napoli.
Dembele was ruled out for “around six months” in February after undergoing surgery to repair a torn hamstring. There had been hope he could return ahead of schedule but it now appears he will miss the crucial clash.
The 23-year-old’s recovery is progressing slower than expected, and he is “practically ruled out” of the crucial match, according to Javier Miguel at AS. The game was originally scheduled to take place in March at the Camp Nou but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The match will now take place on August 7 or 8, although UEFA is still to confirm whether it will go ahead in Barcelona or at a neutral venue in Portugal. The game is tied at 1-1 after the first leg at the Stadio San Paolo.
Dembele Injury Woes Continue
Dembele joined Barcelona in August 2017 from Borussia Dortmund in the wake of Neymar’s shock departure to Borussia Dortmund. The Frenchman was widely regarded as one of the most promising youngsters in Europe at the time but has struggled with injury throughout his career at the Camp Nou.
Indeed he’s made only 74 appearances in almost three seasons with the Catalan giants, a poor return from a player who cost $125 million. Dembele’s played only nine times for Barcelona in 2019-20, and it’s unclear when he will finally be able to return to first-team action.
Dembele’s troubles at Barcelona have seen him linked with a move away from the club. However, his agent Moussa Sissoko told L’Equipe du Soir in June that he does not expect him to depart in the summer.
Champions League is Barcelona’s Priority
Winning the Champions League remains Barcelona’s highest priority, as they have not been crowned European champions since 2015. The last two seasons have brought heartbreaking defeats in the knockout stages to Roma and Liverpool.
Barcelona does have a slight edge in their tie against Napoli ahead of their second leg with the Italian side. Their away goal in Italy means they can progress to the quarter-finals with a goalless draw.
Yet Napoli has been in good form since Serie A resumed. They are yet to taste defeat in Serie A since the restart and beat champions Juventus on penalties to lift the Coppa Italia in June.
Yet the Champions League may also represent Barcelona’s only chance of silverware this season. The club has slipped behind Real Madrid in the race for the league title in Spain which could add further motivation to their European bid.