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Ansu Fati is ready to return to Barcelona in the upcoming Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Real Madrid.
The 19-year-old striker has had a particularly difficult time in the last 14 months, having only managed five league games due to an injury.
Fati missed most of the 2020-21 season after tearing the inner meniscus of his left knee in November 2020, an injury that ultimately kept him out until September 2021.
But his return at the time was short – he appeared five times in LaLiga, scoring three goals before injuring his hind thigh almost exactly one year to the day after sustaining his first knee injury.
Even during his brief return, Fati highlighted his importance to Barca – he averaged a goal every 71 minutes, the club’s best record this season (min. 200 minutes played) and was ruthlessly clinical, the three strokes coming from just 0.85 expected targets (xG).
Fati’s xG overtime of 2.15 is comfortably the best in the Barca team this season. Their current top scorer, Memphis Depay, has an underachievement over non-penalty xG (6.0 xG, five goals).
But despite the evidence showing how much of an active Fati can be, Xavi will resist the urge to play against him against Granada on Saturday, and instead hold him back for a few extra days to join Wednesday’s Clasico in Riyadh.
“If it was the other way around, playing Madrid tomorrow and the Supercopa against Granada, I would do exactly the same thing,” Xavi told reporters.
“Ansu is fine, [but] I was a little in doubt that he would be able to play tomorrow. For now, I prefer to wait because the last experience he had was a relapse.
“We love Ansu 100 percent and knowing that he is returning is spectacular news for us. He has worked very well, with a very strong ambition, able to make a difference.
“He is a fundamental player but we do not want to take risks because we would lose him the rest of the season. “I prefer to wait until he has full capacity – it’s a matter of physical condition.”
Xavi spoke a few hours after Philippe Coutinho’s loan to Aston Villa was confirmed, a move that will fall into good soil with many Barca supporters who had become more and more frustrated with the Brazilian.
But while Coutinho may never have been the most popular player among fans, Xavi praised his stance.
“It says a lot about him that he wanted to go for a few minutes,” Xavi said. “His salary has been reduced. He is a great professional who wants to be successful.
“Here he was having a hard time and he has been looking for a solution. All players are very professional. I love those who play, but also those who do not. They are exemplary. “
Barca had been keen to move Coutinho in part due to his massive salary, where the club needed to get players off the payroll to register new additions.
Ferran Torres can still not be registered after his move from Manchester City, although Xavi assured fans that the club will do everything it can to ensure the Spanish national team player can play when he returns from his absence due to coronavirus.
“Today [Torres] has tested positive again. Whether we can register him or not, he does not play in principle [against Granada],” He continued.
“[Barca director] Mateu Alemany works 24 hours a day so Ferran can play when testing negative for coronavirus. I’m optimistic, I trust the club’s management. “