Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde insisted throwing the club’s record signing Ousmane Dembele back into action for next weekend’s Clasico at Real Madrid would be “premature”.
Dembele hasn’t played since tearing his hamstring at Getafe on September 16, just three games into his Barca career following a €105 million move that could rise to as much as €145m from Borussia Dortmund.
“We are staying with the same plan. We think he will be ready in January,” said Valverde on Saturday after Dembele returned to training this week.
“Any other plan would be premature and run a risk.”
Victory over Deportivo la Coruna on Sunday will open up an 11-point advantage for the Catalans over Madrid ahead of their trip to the capital next weekend, albeit Real would have a game in hand.
However, Valverde refused to admit that Barca can deliver a knockout blow to Madrid’s chances of retaining the title with victory at the Bernabeu.
“We don’t know what will happen, but our job is obviously to try and win both games,” added Valverde.
“It doesn’t concern me that people speak so much about the Clasico before tomorrow’s game, but we won’t make that mistake.”