Ousmane Dembele could be back in time for Barcelona’s December Clasico against Real Madrid, the specialist who operated on his tendon injury has said.
Dembele, Barca’s record signing ruptured a tendon in only his third appearance after joining from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105 million in August.
However, Dembele is back in light training and specialist Sakari Orava said his recovery was ahead of schedule.
“It is going quicker than expected,” Oravi, who operated on Dembele in September, told Cadena SER.
“He already said he wants to come back before the planned date, but we don’t know if that will be possible.
“Could he play against Madrid? Maybe, maybe… but I can’t assure you of anything.
“Right now he is training in the sandpits that Barca have and I think that, by the middle of November, he’ll be able to touch a ball again.
“If he did too much now there would be a risk of a relapse but, if he takes things calmly, everything will be OK.”
Dembele has maintained a positive outlook since suffering the injury, initially suggesting he could be back in action within two months.
Last week, he posted a photograph on Instagram that showed him wearing a pair of boots, although Valverde played down any expectations about an early return.
“The work in the sand pit is without boots,” the Barca coach said.
“It’s the normal process. I spoke with him, he’s happy, things are going well. The recovery is going as planned. We don’t expect to have him back before Christmas.”
Barca face nine games in just over a month when they return to action after the international break, starting with Leganes on Nov. 18 and ending with the trip to Madrid on Dec. 23.
Valverde is also without Sergi Roberto, Andre Gomes, Rafinha and Arda Turan, although Aleix Vidal returned to training on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Luis Suarez is doing work in an attempt to overcome the knee injury he sustained in the Spanish Super Cup.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.