October 11, (THEWILL) – Sergio Aguero and Ousmane Dembele have returned to training, giving Barcelona a boost. So far this season, neither forward has made an appearance for Ronald Koeman’s team.
With a strained tendon in his right calf, Aguero has been out since early August. He had only joined Barcelona in June, and the club had hoped he would help replace the goals of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, who have both left the club.
Since joining the Catalan club for a sum of over £130 million in 2017, Dembele has been plagued by injuries. He picked up his current setback while representing France at Euro 2020, and he has been absent since June due to knee surgery. Barcelona had hoped to see him play around the New Year, so his return to fitness is a welcome surprise.
After the international break, Barcelona will host Valencia at the Nou Camp on October 17. They are only eighth in the table, one spot behind the visitors from Sunday.
Barcelona has been dealing with a badly depleted attack up to this point. Martin Braithwaite, Pedri, and Ansu Fati have all missed games this season, in addition to Aguero and Dembele. Pedri and Fati have also returned to fitness in recent weeks.
In this first post-Messi season, Barcelona has only scored 11 goals in seven games, half the total of league leaders Real Madrid. They appear to be a team in dire need of some coherence, and the restoration of a settled first-choice line-up has been long overdue.
In Koeman’s setup, Aguero and Dembele each have distinct duties. As the central striker, the former will lead a three-man attack, while Dembele will likely play a more expansive role on the right.
The most intriguing part, however, is how their comeback will affect other players. Memphis Depay, who has primarily played through the middle for Barcelona this season, has been the club’s focal point. With the return of Aguero, Koeman is faced with a difficult decision.
Will he relegate Depay to the left wing, where he started his career? Or will he keep Depay as the starting striker, with Aguero mostly serving as a backup option? Alternatively, Koeman has experimented with two forwards on occasion, such as combining Depay with Luuk de Jong against Benfica in a 3-0 defeat.
Dembele will play a similar role to Ansu Fati, another returnee. Among Yusuf Demir, Gavi, Pedri, and Nico Gonzalez all lacking match fitness, expect them to cycle with Yusuf Demir, Gavi, Pedri, and Nico Gonzalez depending on the width Koeman sets up his team to play with.