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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Ousmane Dembele is 'little by little' getting closer to Barcelona return - Valverde

France winger has sustained two injuried since his summer move from Borussia Dortmund.

Ousmane Dembele, right, has returned to Barcelona training after three weeks out with a thigh injury. Alejandro Garcia / EPA
Ousmane Dembele, right, has returned to Barcelona training after three weeks out with a thigh injury. Alejandro Garcia / EPA

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde will be "cautious" with Ousmane Dembele as the France winger makes his way back from his second injury setback since joining the club.

Dembele, 20, moved to Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund for €105 million (Dh480m) last summer but his first months have been hampered by injury.

The first injury, a few days after the Frenchman's arrival, required surgery and kept him out until January. When Dembele returned, he re-injured the thigh.

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Dembele took part in a training session on Saturday, three weeks after his second thigh injury of the season, and Valverde insists patience is needed as the France international recovers his fitness.

"He did part of the session with the squad and next week he'll join in more, little by little," Valverde said. "We'll see when he's available."

Barcelona are 11 points clear in the Primera Liga and resume their Uefa Champions League campaign, against Chelsea, on February 14.

"Of course he's not ready to play right now, we'll try to be cautious with him, just like we were when he was recovering from his previous injury," Valverde said. "He has had a little relapse and we are going to make sure it does not happen again."

Dembele is not in the squad for the derby match against Espanyol on Sunday. Victory would set a new club record of 22 matches unbeaten from the start of the season. Before this season, the longest Barcelona had stayed unbeaten was 21 games under Per Guardiola in 2009-2010.

"It's a nice number," Valverde said. "It means we are going in the right direction."