Barcelona handed huge fitness boost ahead of Royal Antwerp clash

Barcelona have enjoyed their strong start to the 2023/24 season without influential defender Ronald Araujo, who hasn’t featured since the opening 0-0 draw with Getafe last month – he suffered up a thigh muscle tear during a training match a few days after the game.

But that could soon be about to change as the Uruguayan nears his return to action from injury.

Araujo was back in training on Sunday when he participated in some of the session the day after the 5-0 thrashing of Real Betis in La Liga. He was with the team on Monday morning from the start, raising the possibility that he will be back on the pitch very soon.

AS has reported that medical caution could see Araujo make his comeback against Celta Vigo in La Liga next weekend, largely due to a lack of training in recent weeks. But it hasn’t yet been ruled out that he could be back for Tuesday’s Champions League.

Barca are hosting Belgian champions Royal Antwerp at the Lluis Companys in Montjuic, with the stadium set to see its first European football since city rivals Espanyol beat Werder Bremen 3-0 in the first leg of the 2006/07 UEFA Cup semi-finals more than 16 years ago.

Ronald AraujoRonald Araujo

Ronald Araujo is close to making his Barcelona return / Florencia Tan Jun/GettyImages

Antwerp have been something of a surprise package. They were in the Belgian second tier as recently as 2017, but have consistently qualified for European competitions in the last few seasons, turning out in both the Europa League and Europa Conference League.

Antwerp were Belgian Cup winners in 2020, their first major trophy since triumphing in the same competition in 1992, but their league title last season ended a 66-year drought. It was part of a domestic league and cup double, while the team led by former Barca midfielder Mark van Bommel has already claimed the Belgian Super Cup so far this season.

By virtue of that long wait for a domestic league title, this is Antwerp’s first season in Europe’s elite competition since the 1957/58 European Cup when they were knocked out in the first round by back-to-back reigning champions and eventual winners again Real Madrid.


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