Ousmane Dembele is determined to battle his way into the Barcelona team in the absence of Lionel Messi.
With Barca captain Messi sidelined with a fractured arm, Rafinha was preferred to former Borussia Dortmund star Dembele for Wednesday’s 2-0 Champions League defeat of Inter.
Barca boss Ernesto Valverde confirmed Dembele, an unused substitute for that match, had reported late for the game but said that did not influence his decision to leave the France forward on the bench.
Valverde indicated Dembele remains in contention to play in Sunday’s Clasico at home to Real Madrid, although Rafinha is expected to retain his place after scoring the opener against his old club.
And Dembele, whose time at Barcelona has been affected by a serious hamstring injury, is ready to fight for his place with Messi not expected to return for another fortnight.
“In the last games, I was on the bench, but I will hold on,” Dembele said to Telefoot, adding he must improve in the final third.
“That’s what I miss, I also need to avoid losing the ball.
“Messi? He advises me, he tells me to play like in Dortmund, as I can do, to let go on the field.
“I am determined, last year I had a big injury, I have to prove and show myself at every game.”
Dembele has made nine LaLiga appearances for Barca this season, scoring three goals, while he also struck a superb winner in August’s Supercopa de Espana win over Sevilla.
France coach Didier Deschamps indicated he feels Dembele is not yet ready for high-level football but the 21-year-old shrugged off the criticism.
“He wants to sting me maybe,” Dembele added “Coaches often sting me to get the best of me. I am used to it.”
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