Neymar’s chances of playing in the Club World Cup appeared to improve on Wednesday, as he trained for the first time since Barcelona arrived in Japan.
However, coach Luis Enrique refused to reveal whether Neymar, or fellow strikers Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, would play in the semifinal against Guangzhou Evergrande on Thursday.
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Neymar did some running in front of the media at the start of practice at the match venue, Nissan Stadium.
He didn’t train on Monday and Tuesday after hurting his groin in Germany last week before a Champions League match with Bayer Leverkusen.
”Of course, you want to know if I will pick my star players,” Enrique said at a news conference. ”We have to think about how we will play tomorrow and, of course, we will look to play our best players. The players are 100 percent recovered, and prepared for tomorrow’s match.”
Enrique insisted the tournament, which Barcelona has won in 2009 and 2011, was high on the club’s priorities, given it had to win the Champions League to earn its place in Japan.
”To play in the Club World Cup gives the players opportunity for growth,” he said.
”We came through a lot of hardship to get here. It’s a very important title for the manager, the players, and the club president.”
He singled out 31-year-old striker Robinho as a weapon in Guangzhou’s attack, adding the Chinese club’s five Brazilian players in general would need attention.
”Robinho still has a lot of years left in his career and is probably in the best stage of his career,” Enrique said. ”Perhaps he will only play for one half. One way or another, he’s a player of top quality.
”They have skillful, young Brazilians who can score goals from midfield. We have to be careful about these players.”
Barcelona center-half Gerard Pique stressed the unique challenges of the competition meant that although his club was favorite to lift the trophy, the players would need to adapt.
”Barcelona is a club that is always expected to win,” Pique said. ”During this tournament we play against some teams we don’t normally play against. In that sense, we are in a very competitive environment. It’s a different footballing culture, so as a player these are very precious experiences.”
Guangzhou is on a 28-match unbeaten run stretching to May, shortly before Luiz Felipe Scolari took charge.