Barcelona Boss Offers Update on Messi & Dembele Fitness

Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele

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Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman offered an update on the fitness of both Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele ahead of his team’s final La Liga game of the season on Tuesday against Eibar.

Messi is set to miss the game because of an ankle problem and Koeman explained when the captain is expected to return in his pre-match press conference.

He was a bit banged up, his ankle, and that’s why he hasn’t trained. He’s not ready to play tomorrow’s match. That’s why we gave him two extra days off. He’ll be back after the Eibar match. The doctor said a week without training would be enough for him to return after the game.

Not having Messi is an important loss because of his quality and his effectiveness in attack, we are losing a great player. But it’s not a system for him, he’s part of a system and we have enough players to play in his position. I hope that we are as effective as we have been when Leo has played.

The Argentina international is expected to return to training on Friday ahead of Barca’s first game of 2021 on January 3 at Huesca in La Liga.

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Dembele Set to Return?

Koeman did have better news on Dembele who could make his first appearance since picking up a hamstring injury in the defeat to Cadiz on December 5. The Frenchman has returned to training and Koeman expects to name him in his matchday squad.

The squad list we will give tomorrow after the training session. He’s been training with the team for the last few days. He was training well before Real Valladolid so in principle yes he will be in the squad tomorrow.

Dembele’s return will be a boost, particularly given Messi will miss the match. The Frenchman has four goals and two assists in his last 10 outings in all competitions for Barcelona.


Koeman Talks Eibar

Barca face an Eibar side who are just three points off the bottom of the table and have managed just three wins in 15 league games this season. Yet Koeman knows his team must play well if they are to secure a win in their last game of 2020.

It’s a very competitive team. They try to create pressure and go on the counter. We have to play well, like we did in our last game. We have to be able to find space when the opposition creates pressure. If we don’t play well it will be a very difficult match.

Koeman lined up his team in a 3-5-2 formation last time out against Real Valladolid and saw his team notch a comfortable 3-0 win. The Dutch coach was asked if he would stick with the same system but gave little away about his team selection.

You can talk a lot about a system but I think the most important thing is the energy, the hard work of the players. Any system could be used to attack but another system can be used to defend so it depends on the attitude of the team. I think it depends on the players you have and the moment of the match which system you use. It also depends on who we are playing against. I think my players are capable of doing different things.

Yet the Barca boss will have to make some changes to his team for Tuesday’s encounter at the Camp Nou. Messi’s absence means Antoine Griezmann or Philippe Coutinho are likely to be recalled, while left-back Jordi Alba will also miss out due to suspension.

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