Barcelona star Ansu Fati has undergone regenerative biological treatment on a knee injury as his recovery remains on track.

The winger was ruled out for approximately four months in November after having surgery on a tear to the internal meniscus of his left knee.

Barca confirmed on Monday that Fati's recovery is "following a very satisfactory course".

Fati scored five goals and provided two assists in 10 games in all competitions this season before suffering his injury against Real Betis.

The Spain international is expected to be back in contention to play in March, meaning he will likely miss at least the first leg of Barca's Champions League last-16 encounter with Paris Saint-Germain, which takes place on February 16.

Barca lost two of their first three LaLiga games after Fati's injury but have since won four and drawn twice in six top-flight fixtures.

They sit fifth in the table, 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, having played a game more.

Manchester City are reportedly making plans to sign Lionel Messi next year.

Messi, 33, sensationally requested to leave Barcelona during the close season, but ended up staying with the LaLiga giants.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is out of contract at the end of the season and City continue to eye the star forward.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY CONTINUE TO MAKE MESSI PLANS

Manchester City are making plans to sign Barcelona captain Messi, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The report says the Premier League giants are trying to attract Messi with the idea of playing in England before finishing his career with fellow City Football Group (CFG) club New York City in MLS.

Messi has been linked with the likes of City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter previously.

He has six goals in 10 games this season, including three in seven in LaLiga.

Messi's dribbles success rate (56.3) in LaLiga is his lowest since 2015-16, while he is creating just two chances per 90 minutes, his lowest number since 2012-13.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph reports City manager Pep Guardiola is closer to agreeing to a contract extension, with his deal up at the conclusion of the current campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona's pursuit of City defender Eric Garcia is seemingly continuing. Sport reports Barca will attempt to sign Garcia again in January, but City still want €15million (£13.5m) for the defender despite his contract expiring at the end of the campaign.

- Also out of contract at the end of the season is Bayern Munich defender David Alaba. Tuttosport says Juventus are considering a move for the Austria international, who has been linked with several European heavyweights.

- Sidelined with a serious knee injury, Ansu Fati's future could be clearer soon. Marca says talks between Barcelona and Fati are on track, even with the 18-year-old forward contracted until 2022.

- Liverpool continue to be linked with defenders after serious injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. The Daily Star says the Premier League champions may make a move for Olympiacos and Portugal defender Ruben Semedo in January, although it could cost them £18million (€20.1m).

- After just three Premier League appearances for Chelsea this season, Marcos Alonso again being linked with a move. The Daily Mail reports Crystal Palace are looking at the left-back.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique backed Barcelona sensation Ansu Fati to pick up from where he left off once he has recovered from a knee injury.

Fati will spend four months on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a tear to the internal meniscus of his left knee – an injury sustained in Saturday's 5-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis

The 18-year-old has been in great form for Barca this term, scoring five goals and assisting two more in 10 appearances in all competitions.

Among a number of other records, he became the youngest ever scorer for Spain with his goal against Ukraine in September.

That was one of four caps earned under Luis Enrique and the former Barcelona coach is confident the teenage attacker will find his best form once he returns to action.

"Regardless of how old you are, injuries are part of football," Luis Enrique said at a news conference ahead of Wednesday's friendly with the Netherlands. 

"It is a sad moment but he will overcome it. He will be the old Ansu again."

Fati's absence could give the likes of Alvaro Morata and Marcos Llorente a chance to shine in attack against the Netherlands.

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke is back involved for the first time in over two years, while team-mate Llorente is in line for his maiden cap this international window.

"Morata is here because he has the confidence of his coach. He has a strong profile," Luis Enrique said.

"Llorente is almost already playing as a forward at Atletico now as the second striker. 

"The normal thing is to change your position, becoming deeper in your role, but with Llorente it is the other way around."

Spain enter the midweek friendly in Amsterdam on the back of a surprise 1-0 Nations League loss to Ukraine last month.

La Roja have won only two of their five matches this calendar year but Luis Enrique insisted all that matters is that his side peak in time for next year's rescheduled Euro 2020 finals.

"These games will help us to see all the players," he said. "But after playing these three games we still won't know what we have for the European Championships. 

"That will be seen in the tournament itself, where we can do very well. We'll see. I like what I see. You have to be optimistic and positive. Spain's real level will be seen at the Euros."

Barcelona have confirmed Ansu Fati will be out for approximately four months after surgery on a tear to the internal meniscus of his left knee.

The 18-year-old was forced off at the halfway point of Barca's 5-2 win over Real Betis on Saturday, with the club later revealing the extent of the damage he suffered.

A Barca statement confirmed Fati was to be operated on by knee specialist Dr. Ramon Cugat, and the surgery was completed on Monday.

Following the completion of the procedure, the Catalans communicated that they expect the youngster to be out until March.

"The first-team player Ansu Fati has been operated on successfully by Dr. Ramon Cugat for the injury to the internal meniscus of his left knee under the supervision of the club's medical staff. The player will be out for approximately four months," a statement read.

At the time of the injury, Fati was joint-second top-scorer in LaLiga with four goals, while none of his Barca team-mates had netted more.

A regular squad member last season following an explosive introduction to top-flight football as a 16-year-old under Ernesto Valverde, Fati had seemingly taken on a role of greater prominence and importance in 2020-21.

New coach Ronald Koeman had essentially made Fati an automatic pick for his starting XI, the player beginning all seven of their LaLiga games this term.

Only Lionel Messi (48) has attempted more dribbles in LaLiga for Barca in 2020-21 than Fati (28), while the club captain is the solitary Blaugrana player to create more chances (13) than his team-mate's return of nine.

Fati had been called up to the Spain squad for this month's international matches against the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Ansu Fati is to undergo surgery on the torn meniscus he suffered in Barcelona's 5-2 win over Real Betis. 

The teenage forward was substituted at half-time in Saturday's contest at Camp Nou, Barca later confirming the damage sustained to his left knee. 

Fati is now set to have an operation on Monday, after which Barca said they will release further details about the possible length of his absence. 

A club statement read: "The first team player Ansu Fati will undergo surgery [on] Monday for the injury to the meniscus in his left knee by Dr. Ramon Cugat under the supervision of the Club's medical services.  

"Once this intervention is completed, a new communication will be provided with information on the result and the approximate time of withdrawal." 

Fati is Barca's top scorer in LaLiga so far this term having notched four in seven appearances, while he was also on target in the 5-1 hammering of Ferencvaros in the Champions League.

His form has been a bright point in an inconsistent start Barca have made under Ronald Koeman, who had seen his side fail to win four on the bounce in LaLiga prior to the Betis win.

Only Lionel Messi (48) has attempted more dribbles in LaLiga for Barca in 2020-21than Fati (28), while the club captain is the only Blaugrana player to create more chances (13) than his team-mate's return of nine.

Fati had been called up to the Spain squad for this month's international matches against the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Hector Bellerin and Marco Asensio have been called into Spain's squad for this month's international fixtures as injury replacements.

Arsenal right-back Bellerin earns a first call-up for four years after Sevilla captain Jesus Navas was substituted due to an injury at half-time during his club's 1-0 win over Osasuna.

Luis Enrique's side face a friendly against the Netherlands before Nations League matches against Switzerland and Germany.

Real Madrid attacker Asensio comes into the reckoning in place of Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati.

Like Navas, Fati only managed the first 45 matches of a LaLiga match at the weekend, making way for Lionel Messi in Barcelona's 5-2 triumph over Real Betis.

The Catalan giants later confirmed the forward has suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee, with a decision over treatment options to be made over the coming days.

Barcelona have confirmed forward Ansu Fati has suffered a torn meniscus.

The 18-year-old was substituted at half-time of Saturday's 5-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis at Camp Nou.

Spain international Fati was sent for tests, which have shown a tear in the meniscus of his left knee.

The club confirmed treatment will begin over the coming days.

Fati is Barca's top scorer in LaLiga this season with four goals in seven appearances, while he also scored in the 5-1 Champions League win over Ferencvaros.

His form in attack has been a positive during an inconsistent start to life as head coach for Ronald Koeman, whose team ended a four-game winless run in the top flight by beating Betis.

For Barca, only Lionel Messi (48) has attempted more dribbles in LaLiga in 2020-21 than Fati (28), while the Argentina star is also the only Blaugrana player to create more chances (13) than Fati (nine).

Fati had been called up to the Spain squad for this month's international matches against the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Barcelona have confirmed forward Ansu Fati has suffered a torn meniscus. 

Ansu Fati has been urged to scale new heights with Barcelona as he marks his 18th birthday with another LaLiga outing.

The young forward has caught the eye since making his debut for the Camp Nou giants as a 16-year-old, and four goals in his first five league appearances this season have confirmed his progress.

Fati, the youngest goalscorer in Barcelona's history, has also established himself in the Spain squad and could take the delayed Euro 2020 by storm if his rise continues.

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has come to regard Fati as a key component in his team, but the Dutch coach says there are areas where the teenager can still improve.

As Fati celebrates on Saturday, he and Barcelona head to Alaves for their latest LaLiga clash, looking to bounce back from last weekend's 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the season's first Clasico.

Koeman revealed he spoke with Fati on Thursday to offer a timely reminder of how he can take his performances to the next level.

"I was with Ansu a little while talking about concentration," Koeman said. "I think that he needs to improve in this sense.

"When he loses the ball, it's because of a question of concentration, not because of his quality. In this sense he can improve and he has our help every day.

"He's a very talented player, he's a really good player. He's got a really high level of playing so we need to look after him and especially help him with his career projection and his concentration.

"He needs to be ready and focused to improve."

Fati himself told the Mundo Deportivo newspaper: "This is just the beginning, I hope to celebrate more years as a Barca player."

With his goal in the defeat against Madrid last week, Fati became the youngest player in the 21st century to score in El Clasico, at 17 years and 359 days.

This season he has also become the first player to score more than once in the Champions League before turning 18.

He was the first LaLiga player born in 2000 or later to score 10 or more goals in all competitions, also becoming in September the youngest player from the top five European leagues to reach double figures in goals since the beginning of last season.

At 17 years and 311 days, Fati became Spain's youngest ever goalscorer when he marked his first start for the national team with a strike in the 4-0 win over Ukraine on September 6.

Birthday wishes for Fati came on Saturday from LaLiga, who tweeted to list a string of his achievements and declare: "The world is yours."

Ronald Koeman had his eye on the past, present and future of Barcelona as he lauded Diego Maradona but said it was wrong to draw comparisons with modern-day great Lionel Messi.

The Dutchman is also focused on players who will enrich Barcelona for a new generation, offering advice to Ansu Fati and Pedri as the teenage duo make their mark at Camp Nou.

Maradona turned 60 on Friday and his overall impact on Barcelona during an often-chaotic two-year spell from 1982 to 1984 was such that he is fondly remembered.

Barcelona sent birthday greetings to the player who also scaled great heights with Napoli and Argentina and has now seemingly settled into coaching with Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata in his home country.

Maradona was widely considered the greatest player of his generation, while debate persists over which of Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo merits that mantle in this era.

As head coach at Barcelona, Koeman predictably sides with Messi, but he says the club's all-time record scorer and Maradona played in such different times it is difficult to judge who has been the greater.

When asked about Maradona, Koeman said: "In his time he was the best player. Today, for me, Messi is the best player."

Koeman and Maradona were peers, both playing at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.

"You cannot compare the football of our time with the football of today," Koeman said. "Today it is more physical and more intense, it has changed a lot."

Koeman's legacy as coach at Camp Nou may be in priming the likes of teenagers Fati and Pedri for long and successful careers with Barcelona.

Fati turns 18 on Saturday, while 17-year-old Pedri has his birthday in November.

Both have the backing of Koeman, who has not shied away from using them in Barcelona's biggest games recently.

He started with the duo in El Clasico last weekend, with Fati scoring Barcelona's goal in a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid. Pedri was then in the XI for the Champions League clash with Juventus on Wednesday, and Fati came on midway through the second half as the Blaugrana scored a morale-boosting 2-0 victory.

With four goals in his opening five LaLiga games this season, Fati is outshining even Messi, who has netted just once.

The Spain international has taken the two goalscoring opportunities defined by Opta as big chances for a 100 per cent record – a drastic early improvement on last season's 14.3 per cent in that regard.

His dribbling success is also nudging in the right direction, from 43.1 per cent in 2019-20 to 47.4 this term.

Pedri has only made two starts in LaLiga so far, but an 85.7 per cent passing accuracy rate is something for the former Las Palmas midfielder to build on, at a club where Sergio Busquets and former midfield lynchpin Xavi have in seasons gone by topped the 90 per cent mark.

Koeman says both can improve different aspects of their game, adding: "I tell everyone to enjoy the moment. It is not normal for two 17-year-old boys to play at this level.

"The advice to them is to be humble and work hard because a career is very long. These players that I have seen in these two, three months are very good people, they know what they have to do and they are training to improve.

"We are here to help them improve and enjoy their game and to be able to be with people like Messi, Busquets and other players."

Koeman and Fati have spoken this week about the forward's concentration, with the coach believing that to be a slight weakness in his game, explaining: "He is a great talent and we have to help him improve things. You have to be prepared every day to improve."

Barcelona attacker Ansu Fati became the youngest goalscorer in a Clasico in the 21st century after he netted against Real Madrid at Camp Nou.

The Spain international tapped in from close range in the eighth minute after latching onto Jordi Alba's cutback.

His strike cancelled out Federico Valverde's opener, which had come three minutes earlier during a frantic start.

At the age of 17 years and 359 days, Fati is the youngest player to score in a meeting between Barca and Madrid in the 21st century.

It is the latest in a long list of records set by the Barca academy graduate since he made his senior debut in August 2019.

Fati is also the overall youngest goalscorer for Barca and the Spanish national team, as well as being the youngest scorer in Champions League history.

He has established himself as a regular in Barca's frontline this season ahead of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, who both started on the bench against Madrid.

The early equaliser was the 400th goal scored by the Catalan giants against their bitter rivals in all competitions.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman "respects" Gerard Pique's opinion and has backed the defender to do his talking on the pitch in Saturday's clash with Real Madrid.

La Vanguardia published an explosive interview with Pique on the eve of the first Clasico of the season in which the long-serving defender heavily criticised his club.

The 33-year-old hit out at president Josep Maria Bartomeu in particular over his handling of Lionel Messi's contract saga and admitted Barca have gone backwards since 2015.

Pique did reserve some praise for new boss Koeman, however, and the Dutchman insisted he has no problem with the timing of the interview.

"He has been here for many years and I have been here for three months," Koeman said at a pre-match news conference on Friday ahead of the Camp Nou meeting with Madrid.

"He has his opinion and I respect it. He's smart and knows that if he does an interview of this type, tomorrow he will be ready and play well. I respect all opinions if he is involved."

Pique has been named in a 23-man squad that also includes the returning Jordi Alba and misfiring forward Antoine Griezmann, whose role in the side has been questioned.

Griezmann has yet to score, assist or create a single chance for one of his team-mates in LaLiga this term from four starts, but Koeman is expected to stick with the Frenchman.

"Like anyone he is available to play," Koeman said. "It is not good to discuss his role ahead of every game. We have many more players and want everyone at their best level.

"The team is always the most important thing and we choose the best players for each match."

Griezmann's poor return is in stark contrast to Ansu Fati, the teenage attacker having scored four goals in five appearances this term - more than any other Barca player.

Fellow youngster Vinicius Junior has also been in good form, scoring in three of his last four appearances, and Koeman can see both players getting better over time.

"We know that they are two very good players despite their age," he said. 

"They are learning many things and their trajectory is going very fast. For me the age of the player is not important - what matters to me is their performance.

"Ansu Fati will be a star in the future, but he must work and develop. We will support him to be one of the best in the world, and we will do the same with the other youngsters."

Barca, who like Madrid suffered a surprise defeat in their last league outing, are seeking a first Clasico win in three attempts.

The Catalan giants have failed to score in the last two Clasicos and Koeman acknowledged the importance of picking up a positive result this weekend to rebuild confidence.

"It is important, of course," he said. "The players deserve it for the work they are doing every day. They show a lot of ambition and have started playing in another system. 

"They have shown ambition and hunger. A game against Madrid is always something a bit more. If you win a match, everything is easier."

Ronald Koeman will get his first taste of El Clasico from a dugout when Barcelona host Real Madrid on Saturday.

The LaLiga champions head to Camp Nou after a pretty rotten week in which back-to-back home defeats to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk have left fans and pundits alike thoroughly disillusioned with Zinedine Zidane's current approach.

Barca also lost 1-0 in their previous league game, away to Getafe, but a 5-1 thumping of Ferencvaros in the Champions League was a tonic and, in truth, that defeat at Coliseum Alfonso Perez felt more like an aberration during what has mostly been an encouraging start under Koeman.

The Clasico is always the acid test, though – and Barca, barring a dramatic change in system, will line up for this one in a 4-2-3-1 formation, something they have not done for at least the previous 46 meetings.

BREAKING THE WHEEL

Nobody need tell Koeman about Barca's traditional adherence to 4-3-3. He had enough experience as a player for the Netherlands and the Blaugrana to know such a system like the back of his hand, even if Johan Cruyff's peak 'Dream Team' – such as the one that won the 1992 European Cup final through a Koeman extra-time goal – thrived instead in a 3-4-3.

The fact is, though, that Barca have doubled down on 4-3-3 since Frank Rijkaard took charge in 2003. He, Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino, Luis Enrique, Ernesto Valverde and, eventually, Quique Setien – all have either stuck religiously to the system or at least made good use of it.

That rings true in the Clasico, too. Since the 2005-06 season, there have been 46 matches between Barca and Madrid in all competitions, and Barca have started in a 4-3-3 in 39 of them. Four games have seen them set up in a 4-4-2, and one each in 3-4-3, 3-5-2 and 4-3-1-2.

It's yielded mixed success, as you might expect. Barca won 17 of those 39 games in 4-3-3 – a 43.6 per cent winning rate – and lost 12. They scored 71 goals and conceded 53.

In 4-4-2, they won twice, drew once and lost once, scoring eight goals and conceding four. The 3-4-3 was, fittingly, a 3-3 LaLiga draw in October 2007; the 4-3-1-2 was that famous 3-2 win for Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu under Luis Enrique in 2017, when Lionel Messi scored his 500th club goal; and the 3-5-2 was used by Valverde when they lost 2-0 in the Supercopa de Espana second leg in the capital three years ago.

Koeman's set-up, then, is a big departure from the norm. But will it work against Madrid?

FATI AND FRENKIE ON FIRE

Koeman explained this month that 4-2-3-1 was preferable because of Barca's lack of wingers. "Looking at the quality that we have, this formation is perfect for the team," he told Barca TV.

Fans may not have warmed to the idea at first, but Koeman's approach makes sense – and there are certain players thriving in this formation.

For one thing, it gets Ansu Fati involved closer to goal. In four league games, the young Spain star has attempted 15 dribbles, created three chances and scored three goals. The freedom to cut inside from the left has also liberated Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest at left-back, each of whom have also created three goalscoring chances. Given Madrid presently have no fully fit right-backs, that should worry Zidane.

Another to benefit is Frenkie de Jong, a player who admitted to underwhelming in his first season after joining from Ajax for an initial €75million. He has performed positively in a central axis, usually alongside Sergio Busquets, asserting himself in games far more even though Barca's average possession figure has dropped to 59.2 per cent, lower than in any of the past 11 seasons.

He, too, has created three goalscoring chances and has a remarkable 100 per cent success rate from 11 attempted dribbles. He has also completed 216 passes, behind only the more possession-focused Gerard Pique (255) and Busquets (261). He is a player with renewed confidence in breaking lines in transition and getting the ball into threatening areas, and Madrid's midfield three will have a real test on their hands to cover the space of Barca's four forwards while keeping De Jong quiet.

And Messi? Koeman said before the Ferencvaros game that his captain's form "could be better", and he had a point – one goal (a penalty) and zero assists from four league games is an unusually modest return. He is also averaging 3.9 shots per game, his lowest rate since 2007-08.

Still, Messi has created more chances (six), attempted more dribbles (19) and more shots (15) than any other Barca player in the league this season, and he may be about to face a Madrid defence without Sergio Ramos.

Ronald Koeman said Barcelona have a great future but called for patience after their 5-1 Champions League rout of Ferencvaros.

Lionel Messi, Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele were all on target for Barca, who made a winning start in Group G on Tuesday, while Gerard Pique was sent off in the second half.

Barca are coming off a tumultuous 2019-20 season, which saw the club dethroned by bitter rivals Real Madrid in LaLiga and humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

The embattled Spanish powerhouse turned to Netherlands boss Koeman and the Dutch head coach has overseen just one loss in five competitive matches this season.

"We play different," Koeman told reporters after Barca became the first team ever to have two goalscorers aged 17 or under in a single Champions League match thanks to Fati and Pedri.

"We have made changes on the team, we have made changes on the squad, we have chosen young people, so we can't expect more from this team right now.

"We're good, this team is gonna have a great future, but it must improve. Playing with young players, different tactics…. Be calm, I ask you to give a margin.

"We are going to improve. We can't demand it in two or three weeks, but you'll see that soon the team will play better, will be more comfortable, but we need time."

Antoine Griezmann was an unused substitute at Camp Nou, where Koeman opted to use Pedri and Dembele off the bench after Trincao started alongside Messi and Fati.

Messi became the first player to score in 16 successive Champions League campaigns after his 27th-minute penalty opened the scoring for Barcelona.

Fati doubled the lead with a volley as he became the first player to have scored two Champions League goals before celebrating his 18th birthday.

On Griezmann's absence, Koeman – whose Barca face Madrid in Saturday's Clasico – added: "We look for the best eleven for each game, today we have opted for Trincao playing wide, and then Ousmane [Dembele] in order to have depth on the wing.

"Let's see Saturday, it will be another game. It's my job to prepare the team and have the best squad for each moment."

Barcelona sensation Ansu Fati said he is continuing to learn from superstar captain Lionel Messi after setting a Champions League record on Tuesday.

It was a record-breaking night as LaLiga giants Barca opened their Group G campaign with a 5-1 rout of Hungarian visitors Ferencvaros at Camp Nou.

Messi became the first player to score in 16 successive Champions League campaigns after his 27th-minute penalty opened the scoring for Barcelona.

Fati doubled the lead with a volley as he became the first player to have scored two Champions League goals before celebrating his 18th birthday.

"Messi is still Messi," Fati told Movistar post-match. "He can score in any action. 

"We are very happy to have him here with us and I continue to learn from him."

"We start with a good victory, we have to continue like that," Fati added. "It's [his goal] thanks to all my team-mates, they make things easy for me. It's a fantastic pass from Frenkie [De Jong] and I just had to push the ball."

Philippe Coutinho, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele were also on target for Barca, while defender Gerard Pique was sent off in the 68th minute.

Barca are the first team ever to have two goalscorers aged 17 or under in a single Champions League match thanks to Fati and Pedri.

"It's good for the team, it means we're good," Fati replied when asked about Barca's attackers scoring goals.

"The more competitive there is between us, the better. We all come out better."

Barca will now turn their attention to Saturday's Clasico showdown against bitter rivals and defending LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

Madrid, who have a game in hand, are third and one point behind Real Sociedad, while Ronald Koeman's Barca are four points off the pace, having only played four matches.

"I approach it with maximum enthusiasm," said Fati. "It's a Clasico, I've always dreamed of competing in it."

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