Soccer-Fati to make Barcelona return


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - LaLiga - Cadiz v FC Barcelona - Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla, Cadiz, Spain - September 23, 2021 FC Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman confirmed that forward Ansu Fati will return to action for the first time in almost a year when his side take on Levante in LaLiga on Sunday.

Koeman will be hoping the 18-year-old, who last played on Nov. 7 2020 and had become a fixture in the Barca and Spain first teams, can help the Catalans recover from a stuttering start to the league season.

Back-to-back draws with lowly Granada and Cadiz mean Barca have nine points from five games, seven behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid, who have played one more match.

"It's a very important step," Koeman told a news conference on Saturday.

"First of all for the player, and we're following our plan in order to get the Ansu we know back. He's in the squad and will play 15 minutes maximum.

"There's a long way to go in order to get the player back to how he was. He needs time. He'll bring us quality, but we need to go little by little."

Fati's return is a welcome boost for a forward line that is still missing the injured Sergio Aguero, Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite and struggling for goals.

"(Absences) are tough because we're talking about players who can play out wide, are good at one-on-ones and are quick," Koeman added.

"We try and play our game but without our wingers it's tough and we're looking to do as best we can."

Jordi Alba, Pedri and Alejandro Balde will all also miss the visit of Levante, who are seeking their first win of the campaign having picked up four points from six games.

(Reporting by Joseph Walker, editing by Ed Osmond)

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