Neymar has said he is ready to make his competitive Barcelona debut against Levante at the Camp Nou on Sunday and hit out at “untrue” claims about his recent weight loss.
The €57 million signing reportedly suffered serious weight loss while suffering from anaemia after a recent double tonsil operation. Barcelona admitted to being concerned, and put the 21-year-old attacker on a special diet to bulk him up.
Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari criticised the club’s handling of the situation, and some of the reporting around it, before his side’s 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in a friendly on Wednesday -- a game in which Neymar played all 90 minutes.
“People have been talking too much,” Neymar said. “Nobody lives with me, it is not a problem of feeding. Stories are created which have nothing to do with reality. I am playing and training just as normal.”
The weight loss -- which Neymar’s father had said was worrying -- was not unusual, the player said, adding: "I lost six kilos, but I have got them back already. The weight loss is normal after the surgery. There was a lot of talk, but nobody knows the truth.”
Barca coach Gerardo Martino is concerned about the fitness of Lionel Messi for the Levante game after the Argentina captain missed his country’s 2-1 win in Italy with a muscle strain and played only a limited part in training on Thursday afternoon.
Spain internationals Cesc Fabregas and Pedro Rodriguez both missed their side’s 2-0 win in Ecuador, but should be available for selection having recovered. Both appear to be battling for one place in Martino's preferred XI, along with Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez and newly capped Spain international Cristian Tello.
Dani Alves is a slight doubt, having picked up an ankle knock in Brazil’s defeat in Basel. Carles Puyol is not expected to feature against Joaquin Caparros' side despite having stepped up his recovery from his long standing knee problem, so Cameroonian centre-half Frank Bagnack, 18, could be in the matchday squad.