Despite losing Messi, Arthur, Cillenssen to injuries, Barcelona received yet another great news ahead of Athletic Bilbao clash
Samuel Umtiti’s bid to be fit for the Champions League last-16 trip to Lyon has gathered momentum with the defender returning to Barcelona training. Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti appears to be closing in on a return from a lengthy knee injury. France international Umtiti completed part of Friday’s session as he steps up his recovery from a persistent knee problem, which has blighted his season. The centre-back has not featured since November’s 1-1 draw with Atletico but recently declared his desire to be available for the Lyon tie. Umtiti joined Barca from the Ligue 1 side in 2016, where in five years as a player and made 170 first-team appearances.
Therefore, the 25-year is especially keen to return in time for the encounter at Groupama Stadium on February 19. Clement Lenglet has been Ernesto Valverde’s preferred partner for Gerard Pique in Umtiti’s absence. The defender started in the 1-1 midweek draw against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey, and has been a regular in the side for the past few months.
The experienced Thomas Vermaelen filled the role at home to Valencia last weekend and could be considered an option to face Lyon if Umtiti does not recover in time. It is not all good news on the injury front for the La Liga leaders, however, with midfielder Athur expected to miss around a month after sustaining a hamstring injury.
Barca will be hoping to return to winning ways this weekend when they face Valencia. The Spanish champions ended a run of eight straight games without a win in the 2-2 draw, but had to come from two goals behind to earn any points. The Catalan side take a six-point advantage at the top into Sunday’s visit to Athletic Bilbao, who are only three points clear of the relegation zone.
Barcelona could be on for another historic treble this season, with Valverde’s men still fighting for trophies on three fronts. However, if they are to do this, much could depend on the fitness of Lionel Messi. The Argentine was used in Wednesday night’s draw with Real but did not seem fit and struggled to create his usual magic.
Manchester United to launch a £100 million bid for wonderkid
Manchester United are lining up a sensational summer swoop for Benfica wonderkid Joao Felix. The Portuguese midfielder has impressed Old Trafford scouts who have watched him on a number of occasions this season.The 19-year-old was also watched the weekend before last, and United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer received glowing reports.
And the Red Devils are now looking to launch a bid for Felix in the next transfer window as they continue to add youth to their ranks. It is understood Benfica would be willing to sell the youngster, but would want around £100m for his signature. An Old Trafford source said: “The club went to see Felix in action and it was all positive. He is seen as a real talent.“He is definitely someone who is increasingly of interest. He is a clever playmaker and in a similar vein to Portugal legend Deco. “The scouts saw him during the derby against Sporting Lisbon and he scored. There looks like there is going to be moves for him.”
Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have also shown an interest in Felix, who is also being watched by other European giants.Benfica want to hand him a huge new deal and boost his modest wages while inserting a mammoth release clause to fight-off suitors.
United made moves in the Portuguese transfer market last summer with the £20m capture of Porto right-back Diogo Dalot. The Red Devils also have a track record of bringing through young talent from that country, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani.
Emery tells Arsenal fans why Europa League loss at BATE Borisov is not a shock
Arsenal’s European ambitions are hanging by a thread after a humiliating defeat in Belarus that ended with Alexandre Lacazette being shown a straight red card for elbowing a BATE Borisov player in the face with miuntes left in the game. Lacazette’s dismissal marked the lowest point of one of the worst nights of Unai Emery’s spell at Arsenal, with the head coach unable to change the game after his side fell behind to a first-half goal.
But Emery insisted later that he was not shocked by the defeat, saying that his team deserved more from the match and adding that he had full faith in his players to turn the tie around at the Emirates next week. But the Spaniard will have to mastermind a comeback without the suspended Lacazette, with the £50 million striker arguably being Arsenal’s most consistent attacker since the turn of the year. “I did not see the action but we need to control the frustration,” said Emery.
The Arsenal boss added: “We play another 90 minutes next week and I am sure it is going to be different. The first half was a good performance, we had chances to score. I am happy with the players’ effort. Defensively when they were 1-0 up they were organised and competitive. Our big opportunity is next week at home. I trust in our players and in our stadium with our supporters. We can win or lose but I trust in our work and preparations to make a different result.”
Emery again faced questions about the absence of Mesut Ozil, who was left at home in London despite returning to full training following a recent illness. Arsenal again lacked creativity in central areas, but Emery said the players that he selected had deserved to win the match. “Those that were here, we can win with them and we deserved that,” Emery said. “Last week we won and we played with the same players. We deserved to win but did not get the result. They were very organised. We can win with every player and lose with the same players.”
The night was made worse for Arsenal when Aleksei Baga, the BATE head coach, later said he was not surprised by how poor the visiting side had been. “It was not a surprise for us,” said Baga. “We were preparing hard tactically and there was no surprise at all to see such a game from Arsenal.”
Do you agree with Emery? What did the Arsenal coach get wrong against BATE?
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