Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has conceded that Ousmane Dembele is likely to sit out the encounter with Man Utd in the Champions League.
The two European giants cross paths for the first leg of their quarter-final tie at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, with the Catalan outfit undoubtedly considered the favourites as they chase a treble this season.
United have been resurgent under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer since December as they impressively came back to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain from the competition in the last round, but they have stumbled in recent weeks after three defeats in their last four games.
In turn, that’s not the kind of form they would want to be in heading into a meeting with Barcelona, but their rivals may well have been dealt an injury blow.
Valverde has suggested that they will not risk Dembele in the first leg, with the Frenchman’s absence with a muscle injury proving to be potentially crucial given his pace, movement and the different dynamic that he offers in the Barcelona attack, especially away from home with their ability to play on the counter attack.
“Dembélé will not be ready for tomorrow. We don’t know if he will be there on Wednesday, but we are not in favour of risking him tomorrow or Wednesday,” Valverde is quoted as saying by AS.
The French international hasn’t been included in the squad to face Atletico Madrid on Saturday night, and so it seems highly likely that Barcelona won’t take him with them to Manchester next week.
That will be a blow for the La Liga champions, although it’s perhaps not that big of a boost for Man Utd considering that Solskjaer will still have to come up with a plan to keep the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho quiet with Dembele possibly returning for the second leg at the Nou Camp on April 16.
Dembele has scored 14 goals and provided eight assists in 35 games so far this season, which proves how vital his absence could be.