Neymar fit to face Atletico Madrid after five-month injury lay-off

Neymar will become the first player since the VAR in Europe to face Atletico Madrid in the last four of a Champions League knockout stage match. The Barcelona forward, who was also the last…

Neymar fit to face Atletico Madrid after five-month injury lay-off

Neymar will become the first player since the VAR in Europe to face Atletico Madrid in the last four of a Champions League knockout stage match. The Barcelona forward, who was also the last player to escape Fifa’s radar a year ago, has missed three matches this season due to injury and back-to-back defeats by Real Madrid.

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The 27-year-old is eligible to play as a substitute on Wednesday after making his comeback from a five-month lay-off against Real Betis on Sunday and it seems only a matter of time before he wins his first tournament and claims the Ballon d’Or. Of the 16 occasions when he has appeared in Europe’s elite competition since making his debut in 2013, he has scored eight goals and assisted two, including the winner against Atletico at the Vicente Calderón in 2013. He came on as a substitute as a substitute in the 2009-10 final against Manchester United but missed the decisive penalty in the shootout.

Neymar cannot win the Champions League after joining Barcelona from Santos in 2013 but his success with Brazil, plus his own popularity, means he could have helped his club win the treble in 2014 had he not suffered a fractured metatarsal in the 2-0 win over Arsenal. That was his last Champions League appearance and he has not won a trophy for his club since their double-winning campaign of 2015-16.

Under new coach Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona are unbeaten in 15 matches in all competitions and top La Liga. His men have scored 23 goals in the 14 games in all competitions but lost 3-0 to Madrid in a home fixture they had been expected to win comfortably.

Before his return against Betis on Sunday, Neymar had been omitted from the squads for a series of games in December and January and Valverde had hinted he might be rested against Atletico, one of only three clubs to have beaten him in Europe in his career. Neymar only started for Real against Real Betis on 30 January.

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