Messi back for Barca against Betis

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

Barcelona cap­tain Lionel Messi has re­turned to the La Liga lead­ers’ squad to play Real Betis to­day, get­ting the all-clear from doc­tors to play three weeks af­ter break­ing his arm, but for­ward Ous­mane Dem­bele was left out.

Messi has been train­ing in the last week and trav­elled with the team to Tues­day’s Cham­pi­ons League game against In­ter Mi­lan but did not make the bench for the 1-1 draw.

Barca’s record scorer was in­jured against Sevilla last month but the Cata­lans have fared well in his ab­sence, beat­ing In­ter at home, thrash­ing Real Madrid 5-1 and de­feat­ing Rayo Val­le­cano in La Liga and edg­ing Cul­tural Leonesa 1-0 in the Copa del Rey.

Coach Ernesto Valverde did not want to de­clare whether Messi was fit enough to play for 90 min­utes against Betis but said the Ar­gen­tine was no longer wor­ried about re­laps­ing.

“We’ll see to­mor­row but he has lost the fear of fall­ing over, of sup­port­ing him­self, of clash­ing with op­po­nents,” Valverde told a news con­fer­ence.

“That’s the main thing, be­cause th­ese types of in­juries limit you in those as­pects. He is in good shape, cer­tainly.”

Barcelona’s France de­fender Sa­muel Umtiti has also re­turned to the squad af­ter over six weeks out with a knee prob­lem.

Dem­bele was not in­cluded in the squad, how­ever, two days af­ter fail­ing to turn up for train­ing and, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal me­dia, not in­form­ing the club of his where­abouts for 90 min­utes.

The 21-year-old France for­ward has strug­gled to fully adapt at Barca since sign­ing for a then club record fee of 105mn eu­ros ($119.01mn) in Au­gust 2017.

His play­ing time has been lim­ited by a se­ries of ham­string in­juries and af­ter fall­ing foul of the club’s dis­ci­plinary code, in­clud­ing turn­ing up late for a team meet­ing be­fore the game with In­ter in Oc­to­ber.

Valverde said Dem­bele’s ex­clu­sion from the squad was not re­lated to him miss­ing train­ing, bat­ting away re­peated ques­tions about the player’s ap­par­ent prob­lems with dis­ci­pline.

“I haven’t lost pa­tience with him, al­though ev­ery­one can in­ter­pret this as they wish. This is a team, some­times play­ers are called up to the squad and other times they are not,” he added.

“I look out for the team’s best in­ter­ests. Ous­mane has been start­ing games re­cently but right now he is not in the squad.

“The only thing we hope is that the team ben­e­fits from his talent and the club does too as they have made a great in­vest­ment in him.”

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