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‘Messi playing through pain to help injury-hit Barcelona’

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Barcelona Messi injury

Barcelona’s superstar Lionel Messi has reportedly been playing with a thigh injury in recent games to help the La Liga champions.

The Argentine forward has been managing a thigh issue for a number of weeks but is pushing on to bolster Barca’s frontline after Luis Suarez was sidelined until April and Ousmane Dembele was ruled out for the season.

According to ESPN, Messi has been playing with pain in his left leg for the last number of games.

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The Argentine should be fit to play against Athletic Bilbao on Thursday in the Copa del Rey but the 32-year-old is showing signs of fatigue.

Quique Setién has replaced Ernesto Valverde as the manager of the club and his training has had a negative impact on Messi according to the report.

“The sessions are different and some of the drills are more intense,” one source told ESPN. “Some players seem to be feeling the fatigue a bit more and that’s when the pain can appear.”

Messi was involved in all five goals against Leganés in the Copa del Rey last 16 clash and in both goals against Levante as he continues to churn out some good performances, if not his best. He has scored 19 goals in all competition this season in 24 games.

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The current issue has nothing to do with the calf injury that kept him out at the start of the season for six weeks.

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UEFA Champions League: Barcelona player tests positive for Covid-19

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An unnamed Barcelona player has tested positive to COVID-19, though their upcoming Champions League clash with Bayern Munich is not in doubt.

According to the Spanish club, the player who tested positive was not included in Quique Setien’s final shortlist for Friday’s quarter-final tie against Bayern.

The statement released by Barcelona read;

“Following PCR tests conducted this Tuesday afternoon on the group of nine players due to begin the pre-season today, one of them has tested positive for Covid-19.

“The player has no symptoms, is in good health and has been quarantined at his home. The club has reported the matter to the relevant sporting and health authorities.

“All persons who have been in contact with the player have been tracked to perform the corresponding PCR tests.

“The player has not been in contact with any of the senior team players who are scheduled to travel to Lisbon this Thursday to compete in the Champions League.”

The statement also linked to a page confirming the nine players that had returned to pre-season training, including Pedri, Trincao, Matheus Fernandes, Jean-Clair Todibo, Moussa Wague, Carles Alena, Rafinha, Juan Miranda and Oriol Busquets.

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Valencia sell Coquelin to Villarreal

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Valencia have sold midfielder Francis Coquelin to La Liga rivals, Villarreal, a move that has heaped further criticism on owner Peter Lim over his management of the club.

Both teams announced on Wednesday that Coquelin, 29, has penned a four-year contract with Villarreal, who finished fifth last season to qualify for the Europa League and last month named former Arsenal manager Unai Emery as coach.

Coquelin joined Valencia in 2018 for 14 million euros after a 10-year stay at Arsenal. No financial details were given on his move to Villarreal but local media reported that the transfer fee was 8 million euros (7.23 million pounds).

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He made 36 appearances for Valencia in all competitions in a chaotic campaign for the club, who finished ninth and sacked manager Marcelino in September before dispensing with his successor Albert Celades in July.

Former Watford coach Javi Gracia was appointed as the club’s latest coach at the end of last month.

According to Spanish media reports, Valencia captain Dani Parejo is also set to join Villarreal, one of Valencia’s closest competitors, unleashing a new wave of criticism from supporters and former players against Singaporean billionaire Lim.

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Former Valencia goalkeeper Santi Canizares has led the criticism on social media, while supporters group Salvem Nostre Valencia (Let’s Save Our Valencia) has called for a protest later on Wednesday outside the club’s Mestalla stadium.

Lim, who bought the club in 2014, made the surprising decision to sack Marcelino last year soon after he led the club to Copa del Rey glory and qualification for the Champions League for a second consecutive season.

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Valencia also sold promising youngster Ferran Torres, believed to be one of the brightest hopes in Spanish football, to Manchester City earlier this month for 23 million euros.

Lim has also received criticism from the city’s vice mayor for failing to fund the construction of the club’s unfinished Nou Mestalla stadium where work began in 2007 but was halted in 2009 due to Spain’s economic crisis.

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Champions League: Mbappe ready for clash with Atalanta – Tuchel

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Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe is set for a sensational return to action for Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League quarter-final clash with Atalanta on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old had been expected to miss out after suffering an ankle injury in the Coupe de France final win over Saint-Etienne on July 24.

However, PSG boss Thomas Tuchel has now suggested Mbappe is ready to play a role from the bench.

“If he has a good training session today and nothing extraordinary happens, he will be with the team tomorrow,” Tuchel told his pre-match press conference.

“We are very happy that he is with the group and that we can have the possibility of finishing the match with him.”

If Mbappe does feature, even if only from the bench, it will represent a remarkable change of fortunes for PSG.

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Tuchel has previously said he thought it would take a “miracle” for Mbappe to be fit in time for the game, as the French champions look to stake their claim for the European crown.

Having Mbappe back eases some of the pressure on Neymar, although Tuchel feels the Brazilian has the mindset and ability to carry the PSG attacking threat if needed.

“I have the impression that there is always a lot of pressure on him, but he likes it,” said Tuchel of Neymar. “He is used to playing with this pressure.

“We are very happy that Kylian is also with the group and that we can have the possibility to finish the match with him, because the two like to play together.

“Neymar is decisive on the big matches and I am convinced that he can be the key man for us. He has the necessary quality for this kind of situation.”

Mbappe has scored 30 goals and registered 18 assists in 34 games in all competitions for PSG this season, their top scorer ahead of Mauro Icardi and Neymar.

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