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Barcelona trio expected to return for Napoli first-leg clash in the UCL, four players ruled out



Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Drawn up against Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Royal Antwerp, Barcelona got quite lucky with their group this season in the Champions League. After back-to-back relegations to the Europa League, winning La Liga definitely helped their cause this time around.

Barcelona did struggle, despite that, finishing level on points with Porto, and only edging them to the top spot based on head-to-head performances.

The real uphill task will start on 21st February, though, when they take on Napoli in the round of 16 of the tournament. The first leg will be played at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in Naples, with the return fixture scheduled for 12th March in Catalonia.

With eight players out injured, Xavi will be hoping to recover as many key players back from injury as possible for the first-leg. Four of these players have been ruled out of the game, one is a doubt, and three are expected to make a full recovery ahead of it.

Sidelined: Gavi, Balde, Torres, Alonso

Gavi tore his ACL while on international duty with Spain, and has been sidelined for the rest of the season. His participation in the 2024 Euros is also under threat, but that is far from Barça’s priority right now.

Alejandro Balde, meanwhile, underwent a hamstring injury following the injury he picked up against Athletic Club in the Spanish Super Cup. The left-back is also out for the rest of the season.

Ferran Torres was the latest of the eight to pick up an injury, hobbling off in the first-half against Osasuna last week. While there is a slim chance he could be back in time for the Napoli clash, his participation has been ruled out as it stands.

Finally, the least concerning of the four is Marcos Alonso, who last played any minute for Barcelona against Shakhtar in the 1-0 loss early in November. He has been out with a back problem since early December, and is not expected anytime back until March.

Doubtful: Joao Felix

Picking up an ankle injury in training, late in January, Joao Felix is expected to be out of action for a month. However, reports have stated that the Portuguese will do his best to recover in time for the UCL game, and there is optimism about his return.

Full recovery: Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Raphinha, Roberto

Probably the most important of them all, Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s absence has severely hurt Barcelona, with Iñaki Peña far from up to the task of taking over as the first-choice for the club.

The German picked up a back injury in mid-November, and has subsequently underwent surgery for the same. He should make his return this weekend as Barcelona lock horns against Granada.

Meanwhile, for Raphinha it is the second muscle injury of the season, this time coming against Osasuna in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals. He has almost recovered, and could be in the squad list this weekend, that will definitely relieve some of the pressure from Lamine Yamal.

Lastly, Sergi Roberto was one of the latest to pick up a muscle injury this season. He, too, is expected to make a return vs Granada, but his presence in the Napoli clash could be largely inconsequential, anyway.

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