Ousmane Dembele is set to make his long-awaited return to Barcelona action on Saturday in a pre-season friendly against Nastic.
The French forward has not featured for the Catalan giants at all in 2020 due to injury, and his last appearance came 290 days ago on 27 November 2019 in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund.
Dembele underwent surgery on a torn hamstring in February and is now back to full fitness ahead of the start of the new La Liga season.
Barcelona will step up their preparations ahead of the new campaign with friendlies against Nastic on Saturday and Girona on September 16. The club’s first La Liga game of the new campaign is set for September 26/27 against Villarreal at the Camp Nou.
Saturday’s game will give the Barcelona players a chance to impress new manager Ronald Koeman and stake a claim for a place in his starting XI. Dembele will be keen to make up for lost time after managing only nine appearances in 2019-20.
Koeman has spoken about Saturday’s game and told the club’s media he plans on using two different teams in each half. Using two different sides in the friendly against Nastic will allow Koeman to run his eye over most of the players in his squad.
“Each player is going to get 45 minutes; it will be a game with two separate teams. We will look for intensity, order in our play, how we want to play with the ball, transitions and pressing… things to improve and to see how we want to play.”
The Dutch coach also admitted it’s been an usual pre-season given the short space of time between last season ending and the new campaign beginning. Barcelona’s last game was the 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League on August 14.
“It’s tricky. It’s a short preseason and we only get four weeks before the opening game against Villarreal. It’s also more of an individual preseason, as some players who have had more of a rest and others who have played games. We have to try to ensure that everybody is in top form before the opening game.”
“Now we have some friendlies and training sessions in which to get into good shape and face a tough LaLiga season.”
Despite Dembele’s difficulties at Barcelona, the forward is expected to be part of Koeman’s preferred starting XI when fit. The new manager has already told the Frenchman he’s counting on him for next season.
Barcelona are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation under Koeman. Dembele is being tipped to play on the left of the attacking three along with Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi.
Dembele’s return to action will be warmly welcomed after such a lengthy spell on the sidelines, and Barcelona will be hoping the forward can finally enjoy an injury-free run and rediscover his best form.
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