Ansu Fati set for Barca return in Supercopa, confirms Xavi

By Sports Desk January 07, 2022

Ansu Fati is set to make his return to action with Barcelona in the upcoming Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Real Madrid.

The 19-year-old forward has had a particularly difficult time of it in the past 14 months, managing just five league appearances due to injury.

Fati missed the majority of the 2020-21 season after tearing the internal meniscus of his left knee in November 2020, an injury that ultimately kept him out until September 2021.

But his return then was brief – he featured five times in LaLiga, scoring three goals, before then hurting his hamstring almost exactly a year to the day after suffering that initial knee injury.

Even during his short-lived return, Fati highlighted his importance to Barca – he averaged a goal every 71 minutes, the best record at the club this season (min. 200 minutes played) and was ruthlessly clinical, those three strikes coming from just 0.85 expected goals (xG).

Fati's xG overperformance of 2.15 is comfortably the best in the Barca team this season. Their current top scorer, Memphis Depay, has underperformance in relation to non-penalty xG (6.0 xG, five goals).

But despite the evidence showing just how much of an asset Fati can be, Xavi will resist the urge to play him against Granada on Saturday, instead holding him back for a few extra days in order to feature in Wednesday's Clasico in Riyadh.

"If it were the other way around, playing Madrid tomorrow and the Supercopa against Granada, I would do exactly the same," Xavi told reporters.

"Ansu is fine, [but] I had some doubts that he would be able to play tomorrow's game. For now I prefer to wait because the last experience he had was a relapse.

 

"We love Ansu 100 per cent, and knowing that he is about to return is spectacular news for us. He has worked very well, with a very strong ambition, capable of making a difference.

"He is a fundamental player, but we do not want to take risks because we would lose him for the rest of the season. I prefer to wait until he is at full capacity – it's a question of physical condition."

Xavi was speaking a few hours after Philippe Coutinho's loan exit to Aston Villa was confirmed, a move that will go down well with many Barca supporters who had become increasingly frustrated by the Brazilian.

But while Coutinho may never have been the most popular player among fans, Xavi commended his attitude.

"It says a lot about him that he wanted to leave to have minutes," Xavi said. "His salary has been lowered. He is a great professional, who wants to succeed.

"Here he was struggling and he has looked for a solution. All the players are being very professional. I am delighted with those who play, but also with those who do not. They are exemplary."

Barca had been eager to move Coutinho on in part due to his massive salary, with the club needing to get players off the wage bill in order to register new additions.

Ferran Torres still cannot be registered following his move from Manchester City, though Xavi assured fans the club is doing everything it can to ensure the Spain international can play once he returns from his coronavirus-enforced absence.

"Today [Torres] has tested positive again. Regardless of whether we can register him or not, in principle he will not play [against Granada]," he continued.

"[Barca director] Mateu Alemany is working 24 hours a day so that Ferran can play when he tests negative for coronavirus. I am optimistic, I trust in the club management."

Related items

  • Hungary forward Varga undergoes successful surgery after worrying injury Hungary forward Varga undergoes successful surgery after worrying injury

    Barnabas Varga has undergone successful surgery and will leave hospital on Wednesday, after suffering a facial fracture during Hungary's dramatic 1-0 win over Scotland at Euro 2024.

    The forward required urgent medical attention after colliding with Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn in the 68th minute of the crucial Group A encounter in Munich on Sunday.

    There was a lengthy stoppage in play, with Varga's team-mates forming a protective wall around him for privacy during treatment.

    The 29-year-old left the field on a stretcher and was taken to hospital, but was in a stable condition before his surgery.

    A statement from the Hungarian Football Federation read: "According to the information of the institution's doctors specialising in facial injuries, the intervention was uncomplicated, so the attacker can leave the hospital on Wednesday."

    Varga's wife Laura Skrapits also shared a picture on Instagram, accompanied by the message: "Thank you for the kind, supportive messages. Barni is over the surgery. A little rest awaits him, but everything will be fine."

    Kevin Csoboth's 100th-minute strike secured third place for Hungary in Group A, boosting their chances of progressing to the knockout stages.

    The team dedicated their victory to Varga, holding aloft his number 19 jersey as they saluted their supporters.

  • Euro 2024 social round-up: Football, eh? Italy snatch a last-16 place and England debate rolls on Euro 2024 social round-up: Football, eh? Italy snatch a last-16 place and England debate rolls on

    Gary Lineker has been at the centre of something of a storm when it comes to England at Euro 2024, and that story was plastered over social media on Monday.

    Then, the football took control, with Spain keeping up their winning run and Italy salvaging a draw against Croatia to claim a spot in the last 16.

    Here, we unpack the best of the day's social media clips from the tournament in Germany.

     

    Football, eh?

    Football... It's crazy! 

    With a minute to go, Italy - the holders - were on the brink of a possible exit, with Croatia leading 1-0 in Leipzig.

    Yet within 30 seconds, Mattia Zaccagni's maiden Azzurri goal had sent Italy through into the last 16, and it's Croatia who are on the verge of an early departure.

    Lineker responds

    There was a lot left to be desired following England's performance in their 1-1 draw with Denmark, but it is the post-match criticism that has since drawn the most attention.

    In particular, Lineker's comments were brought to the attention of Harry Kane in a recent press conference, with the England captain urging the pundits to support the squad.

    With the ball back in Lineker's court, he - along with fellow pundit Alan Shearer - had his say on the ongoing debate.

    Ferdinand chips into pundit debate

    Rio Ferdinand has done his fair share of punditry, and the former England defender had his say on the Lineker debate.

    Ferdinand said the England players shouldn't expect pundits to act as "cheerleaders" when the team aren't performing.

    Strike a pose

    With qualification for the knockout stages already complete, Portugal do not have to worry about any pressure going into their final match against Georgia.

    And while taking some time off during training, Joao Felix decided to try his hand at something a little different.

    We may even see some of his photos popping up on Portugal's official X account in the coming days.

    A family affair

    Among the travelling Spanish fans are a family of nine, who have made a 2000km journey to watch their nation at the tournament.

    After finally reaching their destination, they got to meet Ferran Torres, Marc Cucurella and Dani Vivian.

    Torres subsequently starred for Spain as La Roja stayed perfect in Group B by beating Albania, with the Barcelona forward scoring the only goal of the game.

    French cuisine 

    Ever wondered what an international footballer does at lunchtime?

    Well, fortunately for you, the French team allowed their social admins into the inner sanctum.

    Scholes backs Mainoo for big things

    More punditry relating to England, and this time it was Paul Scholes who had his say.

    Scholes thinks Kobbie Mainoo, who has had an impressive season with Manchester United, could be the player to pull the strings in midfield for the Three Lions.

    Vertonghen sees into the future

    Jan Vertonghen is playing in his sixth major tournament for Belgium, and his third Euros.

    Sitting down at Belgium's 'The Basecamp', the veteran defender was given a glimpse of what he will look like if he chooses to forgo retirement and keep playing with the help of AI.

    While Vertonghen was seemingly happy with the results, Maxim De Cuyper was not so impressed.

    The grind never stops

    Cristiano Ronaldo will make his 50th appearance at a major tournament the next time he features at Euro 2024.

    And even though Portugal are already through, the work on the training field never stops for the 39-year-old...

  • Croatia 1-1 Italy: Modric makes Euros history but last-gasp stunner sends Azzurri through Croatia 1-1 Italy: Modric makes Euros history but last-gasp stunner sends Azzurri through

    Luka Modric's history-making goal for Croatia proved fruitless as Mattia Zaccagni's last-gasp screamer sent Italy through into the last 16 of Euro 2024 after a 1-1 draw.

    Modric became the oldest player to score at the Euros when he slammed in from close range in the 55th minute - just 33 seconds after missing a penalty - and Croatia seemed all set to progress in second place from Group B, but Italy substitute Zaccagni had other ideas.

    With a sumptuous side-footed finish deep into the final throngs of stoppage time, Zaccagni claimed a point for the Azzurri, ensuring the holders will face Switzerland in the round of 16 on Saturday.

    Croatia, on the other hand, with just two points from their three matches, seem destined to miss out on one of the best third-placed finishes.

    Zlatko Dalic's team completed 329 passes in the first half – only against Scotland in June 2021 (337) have they completed more passes in a half at the Euros – but bar Luka Sucic's fizzing effort, they hardly tested Gianluigi Donnarumma.

    Indeed, Dominik Livakovic was the busier of the two goalkeepers, and he had to be at his best to deny Alessandro Bastoni an opener.

    Yet, the pace swiftly picked up in a frantic couple of minutes after the break, when Italy substitute Davide Frattesi was penalised for handball following a VAR review.

    After seeing his penalty saved by Donnarumma, Modric stayed alive to lash home on the rebound when a cross was worked back into the area, with Italy's goalkeeper having excellently denied Ante Budimir.

    Bastoni should have restored parity just after the hour, only for the defender to head over after meeting a corner unmarked.

    Gianluca Scamacca failed to meet Federico Chiesa's teasing cross as Croatia looked all set to head through, but there was to be one last twist.

    Having come on in the 81st minute, Zaccagni showed great composure to produce a piece of magic and send the holders through.

    A fond farewell?

    That might well be it for Modric, not just at the European Championship but at major tournaments as a whole. If it is the way he goes out, after his 16th appearance at the Euros, then he has done himself proud.

    At 38, he made history, etching his name into the Euros record books. 

    By the time he left the pitch in the 80th minute, Modric had played a team-leading 23 passes into the final third and won possession on six occasions, another team-high. 

    He looked distraught at the end, and at 38, surely that is the end for him at the European Championships, and maybe even major tournament football?

    Donnarumma pulls through

    Donnarumma was the star of the show for Italy at Wembley three years ago, with his saves in the shootout win over England.

    The three seasons that have followed have not been the best for the former Milan goalkeeper, who has made some high-profile errors for Paris Saint-Germain.

    Yet, he was on excellent form in Leipzig, making that exceptional penalty save and then an even more impressive stop to thwart Budimir, only to see Modric pick up the pieces when no defender reacted.

    Having become the youngest goalkeeper to play 10 matches at the Euros in the history of the competition (aged 25 years and 120 days), Donnarumma did not deserve to be on the losing side, and Zaccagni's moment of brilliance ensured that was not to be the case.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.