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Barcelona have confirmed that Ansu Fati will not undergo surgery on the hamstring injury he sustained against Athletic Bilbao last week.
Fati was substituted during Thursday’s Copa del Rey defeat to Athletic Bilbao, with the club later confirming he had suffered another injury setback.
Rather than send Fati for surgery, Barca will instead let the 19-year-old’s tendon heal naturally by following “a conservative recovery plan”.
The Catalan giants announced the news on their Twitter account on Tuesday, but no timeframe for the winger’s lay-off was given.
According to reports from Spain, Barca are set to be without Fati for several weeks, rather than months.
However, it still marks another blow for Fati, who appeared to be in tears as he left the pitch against Athletic, with this the latest in a series of problematic injuries.
Fati has featured in just 10 games across all competitions this season, and he had only recently returned from a two-month absence due to a previous hamstring problem.
He previously spent 10 months out due to a serious knee injury, only returning to action in September.
Despite his limited action, Fati is Barcelona’s second-highest scorer in 2021-22 with five goals, three fewer than Memphis Depay, who has played 13 more times.
Fati’s goals have come in just 456 minutes of on-pitch action, while he has out-performed his expected goals (xG) of 1.92, suggesting his finishing has been well above standard.
Writing on his official Instagram account on Sunday, Fati vowed to keep on fighting on his road back from another spell on the sidelines.
“Unfortunately, I am having to live through the worst part of football,” he posted. “But I will never give up! Thank you very much for your messages of support and love!”
Anthony Martial will play the remainder of the 2021-22 season on loan in LaLiga with Sevilla after falling out of favour at Manchester United.
France international Martial has reportedly taken a pay cut to join the Andalusian club, who it is said will pay €6million for salary and a loan fee combined.
United interim boss Ralf Rangnick revealed last month that Martial had asked to leave the club in January after struggling for first-team football following a return from injury.
Rangnick then claimed in the wake of United’s 2-2 Premier League draw with Aston Villa that Martial was not with the squad because he “didn’t want” to be involved – the forward refuted those claims.
While Rangnick drew a line under the situation, he hinted United were negotiating exits for several players ahead of the transfer deadline, and Sevilla’s tactic of playing the long game has paid off.
LaLiga’s second-placed side were linked with Martial last month, but reports suggested they could not get anywhere near the player’s wage demands, and United were seemingly unwilling to lower their own demands.
But a breakthrough in negotiations has seen the clubs reach an agreement that Sevilla will hope significantly boosts their chances in LaLiga’s title race.
After 22 matches played, Sevilla are just four points behind leaders Real Madrid.
Throughout January, they have been linked with forwards due to injuries and a general lack of goals scored – their 34 in LaLiga is the fewest of those in the top four and 13 behind Madrid’s tally.
Rafa Mir is their top scorer in the league despite a fairly underwhelming total of six in 20 appearances, with the pre-season arrival from Wolves struggling to pick up the slack for Youssef En-Nesyri, who has been absent through injury and Africa Cup of Nations duty.
Sevilla will hope Martial can hit the ground running after the international break, but he may be lacking match sharpness given he has played the full 90 minutes of a game once all season and has played just eight minutes of football since Rangnick’s first match in charge in early December.
Morocco booked their place in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals as Achraf Hakimi’s stunning free-kick sealed a 2-1 win over Malawi.
The Paris Saint-Germain full-back struck 20 minutes from time at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo after Youssef En-Nesyri cancelled out Gabadinho Mhango’s magnificent early effort.
After scraping through Group B in third place, Malawi were making their first appearance in the AFCON knockout stages.
The Flames took a surprise lead in the seventh minute, Mhango catching Yassine Bounou off his line with a wonderful 40-yard lob.
Morocco had only lost one of their previous 11 games when facing an opponent in the competition for the first time.
Vahid Halilhodzic’s side equalised in first-half stoppage time as En-Nesyri headed home from Selim Amallah’s deep cross.
The contest looked possibly set for extra time until Hakimi emphatically beat Charles Thomu from 30 yards to send his nation through to the last eight, where they will face Ivory Coast or Egypt.
Aston Villa forward Leon Bailey is closing in on a return to the first team, having spent over a month on the sidelines due to injury.
The Jamaica international was forced to leave the field before halftime after pulling up against Manchester City early in December.
The injury was similar to one the player had suffered against Aston Villa in September when he was also sidelined for several weeks.  Having missed out on the Jamaica Reggae Boyz three matches for the upcoming international window, Aston Villa coach Steven Gerrard believes the period will provide the player with plenty of time to slowly ease himself back into action.
“Leon is not too far away and we are hoping to have him back in the next two weeks.
“The (winter) break will benefit Leon as he won’t miss many more games,” Gerrard said.
“Hopefully in two weeks’ time he is ready to train with the group,” he added.
The 24-year-old who moved from Bayer Leverkusen for an estimated £25million last summer has had a stop-start beginning to life at Villa Park but has shown plenty of promise whenever he has managed to get time on the pitch.  He has scored once in 9 appearances.
Jan 23, 2022 LaLiga
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