Fantasy Hot or Not - Can Messi's Barca return to winning ways?

By Sports Desk February 13, 2019

Lionel Messi will be aiming to avoid a run of four consecutive draws for the first time in his career, when Barcelona take on Real Valladolid.

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  • Rafinha given all-clear by Barcelona doctors Rafinha given all-clear by Barcelona doctors

    Barcelona's medical team have given midfielder Rafinha the all-clear after he completed his recovery from a knee injury that kept him out for almost seven months.

    The Brazilian playmaker ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid in November 2018 and he had surgery to address the problem.

    A statement on Barcelona's official website confirmed the 26-year-old has been given the green light to return to full training, but it remains to be seen whether he can force his way back into the first team at Camp Nou.

    Rafinha's Barcelona career was stuttering when he sustained the injury and he made just five LaLiga appearances for the club in the first four months of the 2018-19 season, having spent the previous campaign on loan at Inter.

    Born in Sao Paulo, Rafinha came up through Barcelona's youth ranks before enjoying a strong season on loan at Celta de Vigo in 2013-14 that led to him breaking into the Barca first team the following year.

    His future at the club could hinge on whether under-pressure coach Ernesto Valverde keeps his job.

    Rafinha's father, former Brazil international Mazinho, expressed his frustration with the limited first-team opportunities afforded to his son before the injury struck, saying he would be seeking a transfer if nothing changed.

  • Real Madrid signing Rodrygo 'one of the great prodigies' Real Madrid signing Rodrygo 'one of the great prodigies'

    Real Madrid have signed "one of the great prodigies" in Rodrygo Goes, according to club president Florentino Perez.

    Brazilian 18-year-old Rodrygo was presented as a new Madrid player at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday, a year after the club shelled out a reported €45million to sign him from Santos.

    The teenager made 80 appearances in all competitions after making his Santos debut in November 2017 and Perez is excited to see him in action for Madrid.

    "Our strategy is always about finding emerging talent, incorporating young players who want to mark an era in Real Madrid. Today we have a prodigious talent joining us," said Perez.

    "This footballer already provokes admiration for his game in a country [Brazil] where admiration for football is a way of life. One of the great prodigies comes to our club, who already stands out for his quality and attitude.

    "He has dreamed of this moment, he has wanted to hear these words that are coming true today, and we welcome Rodrygo Goes as a new player of Real Madrid.

    "You come from Brazil, a country where football is a great passion and where the best players in history have come from.

    "You played for a legendary club like Santos, you managed to do some incredible things in such a demanding place.

    "You arrive at 18 but you've played many games with Santos already and you've become one of the big emerging stars of Brazilian football, standing out in all the youth categories for the national team.

    "You've grown since your debut and scored many goals, but now you've chosen a challenge here. The club is going to support you as much as we can for you to be a happy player here. You'll have to work hard, the fans will be beside you, but you must know about the maximum demands here."

    In a short initial speech, Rodrygo expressed a desire to repay the faith shown in him by Perez and Madrid as a whole.

    "I want to thank firstly God for everything he's done for me and my family. All my family have fought with me. Thanks to the president and all the fans. I hope to give a lot of happiness to you. Hala Madrid," said Rodrygo.

  • Dortmund hand Favre contract extension until 2021 Dortmund hand Favre contract extension until 2021

    Lucien Favre has signed a contract extension tying him to Borussia Dortmund until 2021.

    Swiss coach Favre agreed a two-year deal with Dortmund in May 2018 and led them to an unexpected Bundesliga title charge in his first season at the helm.

    Having finished just two points behind eventual champions Bayern Munich, the former Borussia Monchengladbach boss has renewed his terms at Signal Iduna Park.

    "I'm looking forward to continuing constructive and successful cooperation with the entire BVB team," said Favre in a statement after the new deal was announced on Tuesday.

    "I'm delighted to have the opportunity to shape the sporting future of this tradition-steeped club."

    Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke added: "He has 100 per cent met the expectations. It is logical that we want to shape the club's future together."

    BVB look set to push Bayern all the way again in 2019-20, having already finalised the signings of Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Nico Schulz.

    "Lucien has created clear structures and developed our players," said sporting director Michael Zorc.

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