Xavi does not rule out Dembélé for the match against Benfica

MADRID (AP) – Barcelona may have some key players returning from injury to the team’s crucial Champions League match against …

MADRID (AP) – Barcelona may have some key players returning from injury to the team’s crucial Champions League match against Benfica, including Ousmane Dembélé, coach Xavi Hernández said on Monday.

Dembélé, Sergi Roberto and Sergiño Dest have cared for injuries but may be available for the match, where Barcelona can win their place in the knockout round and avoid their first group stage elimination in the European competition in almost two decades.

Barcelona are two points ahead of Benfica in third place in Group E, with Bayern Munich at the top of the group and already on to the knockout phase. Dynamo Kyiv is in last place.

“It will depend on how they feel,” Xavi said Monday. “We do not want them to be injured again, but sometimes you have to take some risks depending on the match. We will see. In the end, it will depend on how the players feel, they are the ones who know their bodies and know if they can be available or not. “

Dembélé has been out since the beginning of the month due to a hamstring injury. His only appearance this season was in the 1-0 win at Dynamo when he was back after being out of the game for several months due to a knee problem.

Roberto and Dest have been out since October, but are also close to returning. Roberto cares for a muscle injury and Dest has a back problem.

Dembélé was praised by Xavi after the coach arrived to replace Ronald Koeman. Xavi will head the club for the second time on Tuesday after making his debut at the weekend with a much-needed victory in the derby against Espanyol in the Spanish league, which ended the team’s four games without a win.

Xavi said he needs wingers like Dembélé to be able to play with his style.

“We will open the field and attack through the flanks,” Xavi said. “If you attack from the outside, you create more space inside, and we want to take that space. It’s crucial to me.”

Against Espanyol, Xavi used 17-year-old Ilias Akhomach, from Barcelona’s “B” team, as one of his wingers, with 17-year-old Gavi Paéz improvised on the other side. Akhomach is not eligible to play in the Champions League and Dembélé would fit in perfectly as his replacement if he is healthy.

Xavi said some of the players who were replaced by Espanyol – Sergio Busquets, Nico González and Óscar Mingueza – are not a concern and will be available to face Benfica.

Barcelona, ​​who struggled on and off the pitch in their first season without Lionel Messi in almost two decades, opened their Champions League campaign with 3-0 losses to Bayern and Benfica to be in danger of a rare early elimination. Successive victories against Dynamo brought the club back on track and in a good position to advance.

“I expect the same from Benfica from the first game. There is no doubt that it will be a difficult match, “said Xavi. “But we have to think positively. I am not considering any other scenario than a victory. “

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