Barcelona's Dembele on track to return before Chelsea clash

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Ernesto Valverde seems confident the attacker will be fully fit well before the club meet Chelsea in the Champions League

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele is expected to return to full fitness by next week, according to head coach Ernesto Valverde.

The France international suffered a hamstring injury in January and was ruled out for up to a month by club medics.

Dembele's setback came less than two weeks after he returned to action following a more serious hamstring tear, which saw him sidelined for nearly four months after his transfer from Borussia Dortmund.

The 20-year-old will not play a part in Barca's Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Valencia on Thursday but could be in line for the La Liga game against Eibar on February 17, which takes place just three days before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Chelsea.

"He's okay," Valverde told a news conference when asked about Dembele. "He's started training sessions. I hope he can come back into the squad for next week."

Gerard Pique is another who is likely to miss Thursday's game at Mestalla, after he picked up a knock during the 1-1 derby draw with Espanyol.

Valverde refused to rule the centre-back out of the match but suggested January signing Yerry Mina could make his debut if Pique is unavailable.

"He finished the game in discomfort, with a little injury, but as of now he's not ruled out," said Valverde. "We'll see how he is today [Wednesday]. He's going to train and we'll see.

"Yerry is in the squad and ready to play. It depends on the coach's thinking whether he will start.

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"The fact there are players who can play in different positions is an advantage for him and for the team. We have to decide depending on the situation.

"I knew Yerry Mina from watching videos and now from him training with us, but I don't know him in our competition. I hope he adapts well."

Barca beat Valencia 1-0 in the first leg at Camp Nou.

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