The Barcelona manager hoping to count on the injured forward.
With the league season done and dusted, the focus for Barcelona now shifts to the Champions League.
It is the last tournament the club find themselves alive in and their last shot should they want to win any silverware. It also might be Quique Setien’s last stand and best hope if he wants to continue on as manager next season.
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The Catalans are not considered favorites to win the competition. They have a date with Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals but first they must get through Napoli. In order to have a shot, Setien believes that a certain French forward might be the key.
He believes that Dembele could play a key part in the Champions League and provide them with a significant boost.
It is worth remembering that against Napoli they are going to be without both Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal. Antoine Griezmann is also facing a rush against time to be fit after missing the last two games of the season with an injury.
Dembele has been out injured since February.
By the time the match against Napoli rolls around, it would have been around five months since Dembele’s been out injured after suffering a hamstring injury in the group stage against his former club, Borussia Dortmund.
His prolonged absence is the reason why they were able to go and sign Martin Braithwaite from Leganes. However, Braithwaite could only play in the league and not the Champions League.
While he would offer something that Barcelona are missing, mainly pace and the ability to dribble and go at defenders, they cannot afford to rely on him and think he’s going to be available again this season.
His Barça career has mostly been spent on the sidelines as well as with inconsistent performances when healthy. Setien is going to plan assuming he won’t be able to count on him. Should they advance to the next round and Dembele is given the medical green light, he still won’t be match fit in time.
Having him on the bench would give them depth and someone with a little bit more experience than Ansu Fati. But his track record dissuades people from thinking he is even an option. He would be a luxury at this point.
It is worth pointing out that Dembele stayed in Barcelona to continue his recovery despite Setien giving the players six days off. It seems that he is trying to make it back in time and the coaching staff is somewhat optimistic that they will in fact be able to count on him.
Still, he’s suffered one setback already and they need to be ready and prepare with the players they know will be available. If he can make it back in time and even if he only plays 15 to 20 minutes, for a player of his caliber and potential, it is more than enough for him to be able to change a game.