Matthew Dellavedova is clear Australia have come to Tokyo with the objective of dethroning the United States and claiming the Olympic gold medal in basketball.

Winners of the last three golds, the USA are strong favourites to make it four in a row, though Australia and Spain are among the teams who should provide competition.

Team USA had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, losing to Australia in an exhibition game as well as suffering a defeat to Nigeria, while they have also lost some key players to withdrawals.

Kevin Durant said this week the main rivals of USA will go into the Games confident of producing an upset and that their star-studded roster has had "a slap in the face".

While Dellavedova is aware of the scale of the task to beat USA in competitive action, he is clear about the target Australia have set.

Australia lost to Spain in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals and also fell at the last-four stage at Rio 2016, so the former NBA champion wants to take the last steps to glory.

"The bar has been set since before Rio 2016 and the goal has not changed," former Cleveland Cavaliers man Dellavedova said.

"We know we have come up short in Rio and in China [at the World Cup] but the goal is the same.

"We want the gold medal, and we know how tough it is going to be.

"I thought we had a good week [of exhibition games] but you don't really know until you play anyone else. It's still early.

"There's a lot of things we've got to get better at, but incorporating the new guys in, it's been a lot of fun. They've fitted right in, brought a lot of energy and it's been good."

Head coach Nick Kay also goes into the Olympics full of ambition.

He said: "We're here to win. We want to win a gold. It's something that's been eluding us for a long time now and we want to do it, not just for our group but all the Boomers and Australian players that have been there before.

"We have got to stick together, that's our big thing right now. We have got to play hard each possession and do all those little things that make our Boomer culture special."

Nigeria, who also beat USA in a warm-up game, are Australia's first opponents on Sunday.

"I think they've shown a lot," Dellavedova said about Nigeria.

"They've got a lot of great players. Obviously they beat USA earlier in the week. Athletic, aggressive on defence, I think they made 20 or more threes against the US.

"They were really shooting the ball and moving it. It’s going to be tough, and we're going to have to be ready right from the start of the game."

Former 100m world record holder and Olympic champion Donovan Bailey believes Jamaica’s women could sweep the blue ribband event in Tokyo.

Heading into the women’s 100m, it is the Jamaican trio of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah, and Shericka Jackson who have clocked the fastest times over the distance this year.

Out front, is reigning world champion and two-time winner of the event Fraser-Pryce, with her best time of 10.63, which was recorded last month.  The time was the second-fastest time ever recorded over the distance and fastest in 33 years.

Next up, reigning Olympic champion Thompson-Herah has a season-best of 10.71, a run that she recorded a few weeks ago.  American sprinter Sha’carri Richardson is next on the world's top list with her time of 10.72, which was recorded in April.  Richardson will, however, miss out on the Games after testing positive for marijuana last month.

Jackson, formerly a 400m specialist, had a breakout performance in the sprints last month where she recorded a personal best of 10.77, at the country’s national trials where she was second behind Fraser-Pryce.  The fourth-fastest this year, by an athlete, and certainly puts the 27-year-old firmly in the conversation.

“The women’s 100m will be won by Shelly-Ann Fraser, that's my personal favourite.  I really think Jamaica has the opportunity to sweep.  I think Shericka Jackson has something up her sleeve,” Bailey said during the SportsMax.Tv special series Great Ones.

“We know Elaine will be there, but I think Shelly-Ann is going to get up and keep Elaine out, but I think Shericka Jackson has something for somebody,” he added.

In addition to their fast times this season, all three Jamaicans have the experience of standing on the medal podium.  Fraser-Pryce won the event at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, while Thompson-Herah won the 2016 edition.  It will be Jackson’s first time competing at the event, but she claimed a bronze medal in the 400m at the 2016 Rio Games.

“I was looking forward to this race because I really wanted to see Sha’Carri Richardson under the spotlight with the greatest sprinters of this generation.  I was looking forward to that,” Bailey said.

“The men’s final is open but the women’s final for me is a little more straightforward.  When the lights shine bright, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will not back down.”

Kevin Durant believes rivals of the United States will go into the Tokyo Olympics confident of producing an upset.

Winners of the last three Olympic gold medals, the USA are strong favourites to make it four in a row, with Australia and Spain seen as their closest challengers.

But Team USA have had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, defeated by Nigeria and Australia in exhibition games, though they did beat Spain in their final warm-up contest in Las Vegas.

They have lost significant players including having to make two late roster changes, adding JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson to replace Kevin Love and Bradley Beal. 

Love withdrew with a calf injury, while Beal had to drop out due to health and safety protocols. 

USA face France in Saitama for their Group A opener on July 25 and Durant feels the favourites must be on guard.

"All of them [Olympic tournaments] are difficult," he said. "Every team wants to beat us, everybody wants to see us lose, so every game has a little bit more pressure to it. 

"A lot of guys dropped out, a lot of circumstances, and I'm sure other teams are seeing us lose and feel confident coming into the tournament.

"But we understand what we're getting ourselves into and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Durant feels like the team is starting to come together after those exhibition defeats.

The Brooklyn Nets forward added: "I feel like we're understanding what coach wants from us on both ends of the floor.

"Guys are getting more comfortable with each other and their roles on the team, and that's only going to bode well for us as we start to play real games. 

"So it was good to kind of get a punch in the mouth early on to remind us that it's not gonna be a cakewalk. 

"And so many people are used to Team USA coming in and blowing everybody out, so it was good for us to see that. Now, hopefully, those are the last losses."

After the conclusion of the NBA Finals, head coach Gregg Popovich is poised to welcome Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to the set-up.

He is not sure how quickly the trio will adapt to new surroundings but is glad to have them en route.

"Well, there's not a whole lot you can do when they get here the day before," said Popovich.

"It's pretty obvious that they won't know everything that’s been going on, but luckily it's basketball. We'll try to keep it simple and just take care of what we think we can take care of.

"The good thing is they'll be in shape. I don't know how the plane's gonna affect them, that's not an easy flight. 

"It is true that they won't be as ready to play in the sense of execution that we might want, but that's understandable

"We are not sure [how we will incorporate them]. Something like that is pretty unique, there's no paradigm or game plan or rulebook.

"So it's something we'll discuss the rest of the week and just do what we think is best - it'll be an interesting situation for sure."

Popovich was asked if the players will have any film or play packages to review on the flight to Tokyo.

"They're gonna sleep," he replied.

In a further boost to the roster, USA guard Zach LaVine has cleared health and safety protocols so he will also travel to Tokyo and join up with the team.

The United States got off to an awful start in Tokyo as they lost 3-0 to Sweden to end a 44-match unbeaten streak, while Brazil's Marta enjoyed differing emotions as she netted against China in a 5-0 win to make Olympic Games history.

The USA came into the Games as firm favourites for the gold medal, but Sweden offered a rude awakening for the reigning world champions. They had previously not been defeated since back in 2019 before that run was ended by their emphatic setback in the Group G opener.

Goals either side of half-time from Stina Blackstenius and another from Lina Hurtig did the damage, and while the USA were denied twice by the woodwork, Sweden were deserved winners to repeat their quarter-final shoot-out victory over the same opposition at Rio 2016.

In fact, Sweden's three-goal win was the first time since 2008 that the USA have lost in a major tournament by multiple goals and only the sixth time in their history that they have lost a game by three or more goals.

While the USA struggled, Brazil gave an early signal of their intent. Marta's opener made her the first player, male or female, to score at five consecutive Games, while the 35-year-old also moved to second in the all-time top scorer list at the Olympics.

The Brazil forward's record-breaking outing in Group F stole the headlines, but 43-year-old Formiga made history herself. She became the first women's footballer to appear in seven editions of the Games, and is hoping to become the oldest female representing Brazil to claim an Olympic medal, a record previously held by 38-year-old volleyball star Fofao. 

In more routine fashion, Great Britain got off to a strong Group E start as they cruised past Chile 2-0, with Ellen White netting both goals. 

White spoke of her pride after the win and credited her team-mates who provided the chances for her brace.

"I'm obviously delighted to contribute to the team winning, to score two goals. I feel really proud to open the Olympics with Team GB," the forward said.

"It was a great header down from Lauren Hemp for the first one and an amazing cross from Lucy Bronze for the second.

"We've been working really hard to get to this point. I feel really delighted with where I'm at the moment, but I feel there's still more to come. Collectively as a squad we [can] grow and get better as the tournament goes on."

Team GB and Chile both took the knee, as did the USA and Sweden in their fixture, as athletes across the globe continue to make a stand against racism.

Meanwhile, Barbra Banda announced herself on the world stage with a hat-trick, despite Zambia going down 10-3 to the Netherlands. 

The Netherlands led 6-1 at half-time following Vivianne Miedema's hat-trick and a brace from Lieke Martens. 

Sarina Wiegman’s side then added four more goals in the second half, with Miedema getting a fourth, before Banda hit back twice in the final 10 minutes. 

Brazil great Marta has become the first footballer in history to score in five consecutive Olympic Games.

Marta scored the opener from close range after nine minutes and later added a second-half strike as Brazil thrashed China 5-0 to open their campaign in Japan.

The 35-year-old made her Olympics debut back in 2004 when the Games were held in Athens.

Marta went on to score in the Beijing, London and Rio tournaments before also netting in Tokyo on Wednesday. 

She is yet to win the Olympics, though, earning silver medals in 2004 and 2008.

Marta's team-mate Formiga, who is impressively still playing at 43, also broke records by playing against China.

An astonishing 25 years on from her Olympics debut in Atlanta in 1996, Formiga has become the oldest player in the history of football at the Games.

She is also the first Brazilian to compete in seven editions of the Olympics.

Next up for Brazil is a clash with Netherlands on Saturday.

Dani Alves has revealed he has nerves and "butterflies" as he prepares to finally make his Olympics debut at the age of 38.

Sao Paulo defender Alves has 118 caps and four trophies for the senior Brazil team but has never previously played at the Games.

He is one of the over-age players for the Selecao in Tokyo and it is an opportunity he is relishing and even apprehensive about despite his illustrious career at club and international level.

Brazil are among the favourites to win the men's competition along with Spain and France.

They open their campaign against Germany in Group D on Thursday.

"As it is my first time, the feeling is even more special," said Alves, who will captain the team.

"Despite the fact I have great experiences in the past, as it's my first time here I feel butterflies on my stomach and I hope to live up to the expectations of the competition and of our national team.

"I can say my experience will be similar to those that are also coming here for the first time.

"Being here is really a special feeling. As we say, third time lucky. I tried twice, I could not and the third time I managed. So here I am.

"I would like to thank you also for the respect, for the opportunity to be here. Those of you that know me know that I have a young spirit."

Brazil beat Germany on penalties in the final of the Rio Olympics five years ago to clinch the gold medal on home soil.

Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia are the other teams in a competitive pool.

"Indeed, it is a classic [fixture]," coach Andre Jardine said of the opener against Germany. "It has had a wonderful track record and it is an honour to be part of history.

"Both teams have mutual respect for each other and I expect that it will be a difficult game. It will focus on the detail, on the strategy and also on the concentration.

"I hope that we enjoy and that we are able to write one more page on the history and I hope this page is the Brazilian one."

The men's side will hope to emulate the women's team, who got their Olympics campaign off to an impressive start with a 5-0 win over China.

The Tokyo Olympics officially got underway on Wednesday as hosts Japan defeated Australia 8-1 in softball in Fukushima.

The commencement of softball, which returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008, precedes Friday's Opening Ceremony for the controversial Tokyo Olympics.

Softball, along with women's football, both begin on Wednesday, with men's football to commence on Thursday.

Australia registered the first run of the Olympics when Michelle Cox touched down on home plate in the first inning but Japan raced away with the win.

Naito Minori hit a two-run home run at the bottom of the third inning to open up a 3-1 lead for Japan. The hosts added three runs in the fourth, aided by a two-run home run to left field from Yamato Fujita, before Yu Yamamoto homered in the fifth.

In the opening day of softball, Italy are also due to play the United States, followed by Mexico and Canada in Fukushima.

The 2020 Games, delayed by a year due to the global health pandemic, will be held mostly without spectators due to a state of emergency being declared in Tokyo.

The number of new coronavirus cases in the Japanese capital topped 1,000 for five days running before dropping to 727 on Monday.

Real Madrid midfielder and former Arsenal loanee Dani Ceballos is relishing the prospect of combining with Spain's Olympic head coach Luis de la Fuente in Tokyo, having previously worked with him at Under-19 level.

Spain head into the Tokyo Olympics as one of the favourites for the gold medal, given De la Fuente has been able to call upon six players that reached the semi-final stages at Euro 2020 with the senior national side.

The names of their star-studded line-up would be enough to frighten any Olympic opposition as they have included Pedri, Unai Simon, Dani Olmo, Mikel Oyarzabal, Eric Garcia and Pau Torres.

While the players on the pitch paint an attractive picture that could see Spain win their second gold and first since 1992, Ceballos explained how his relationship with De la Fuente could help him thrive.

"I have had great coaches, but with Luis [de la Fuente] we have a different relationship. We have linked up very well from the first tournament (Under-19 European Championship in 2015)", the former Arsenal midfielder said in Tuesday's press conference.

"From then on we have forged a great relationship. He has given me confidence and I have been lucky to give it back to him on the field."

De la Fuente's men get their campaign underway versus Egypt on Thursday before subsequent fixtures against Argentina and Australia and Ceballos, who played 49 times across his two-year loan spell at Arsenal, is aware of the different challenges that the Games provide.

"It is a completely different competition than what we football players are used to. It is a unique opportunity", he said.

"It is really difficult to qualify for it because it has a lot of requirements that are really tough to meet. But this team has done a lot of things to deserve it, and now it is the time to enjoy it."

Barcelona youngster Pedri did not misplace a pass in normal time during the Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy and created 11 chances at the tournament, one more than fellow squad member Olmo (10) and one fewer than first-placed Jordi Alba (12).

 

Both will be team-mates of Ceballos and the midfielder praised all of his colleagues as they prepare to attempt to recreate the 1992 heroics which sealed home Olympic success in Barcelona.

"We have a really great team. On paper, I think we can be among the favourites, but in reality there are a lot of fantastic national teams. On the field it is going to be different", he said

"Playing in this Olympic Games has been a special dream and I have been reading about what happened in that [the 1992] tournament. Especially in the final, that there was extra time and that Spain won against Poland with a goal from Kiko Narvaez.

"Hopefully we can repeat what they did in their day."

Like Ceballos, De la Fuente spoke with pride about leading his nation at the Games, while he also discussed the possibility of following in the footsteps of those from Barcelona 1992.

"It is a pride being here. It is a different feeling from other tournaments because the Olympic Games are unique. It is a totally special experience, and we are wishing to start enjoying it as a competition and living the Olympic environment.", the head coach said.

"We are feeling the same they felt, a great desire to start competing, a great conviction that we have a great team to compete for everything. And feeling capable of fighting for the maximum. I am sure we are feeling what they felt.

"We are going to try to be up to the standards expected of us, and I am sure that we are going to perform to that level and fulfil the expectations we are creating."

Tokyo Olympics organising committee chief Toshiro Muto has not ruled out cancelling the Games at the last minute should there be a surge in coronavirus cases.

Officials announced a further nine positive cases among those linked to the Games on Tuesday, taking the overall number of people infected since the start of July to 71.

That total includes South Africa's men's footballers Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi testing positive while inside the athletes' village over the weekend.

A number of other athletes have been forced to isolate after coming into close contact with an individual that has contracted the disease.

With just three days to go until the global sporting event's opening ceremony, and with the first events starting as soon as Wednesday, director general Muto will continue monitoring infection levels in the hope they do not spiral out of control.

"We can't predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases," he said at a news conference.

"We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again.

"At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises."

Around 11,000 athletes from 205 national Olympic committees are expected to stay at the Olympic Village over the next three weeks.

The 2020 Games, delayed by a year due to the global health pandemic, will be held mostly without spectators due to a state of emergency being declared in Tokyo.

The number of new coronavirus cases in the Japanese capital topped 1,000 for five days running before dropping to 727 on Monday.

Amid concerns from the wider population over the Games going ahead, Japan's chef de mission Tsuyoshi Fukui insisted a number of safety measures are in place to stop the virus spreading.

"Under these circumstances, we must admit that COVID-19 is not subsiding," Fukui said on Tuesday. "We have to pay tribute to many people that enabled us to start the Games.

"We will give our utmost efforts so that the athletes can do their best. We will, as Team Japan, never forget the sense of appreciation. As of Monday night, the Japanese athletes staying at the Athletes' Village is 236.

"We have seen more and more athletes from other nations enter the Village, but there are rigorous COVID-19 countermeasures enforced and so far, there has been no major issues.

"Including myself, athletes and other members are taking antigen tests every day, as well as using an app to monitor our health situations.

"Every time we enter the Athletes' Village, our temperatures are checked, and we disinfect our hands.

"In the dining hall, each seat is separated by acrylic boards. Also, everyone is also wearing face masks – so we have a strong sense that rigorous measures against the spread of COVID-19 are in place by the organising committee."

He added: "There are various opinions regarding the Games and we are aware of that. We would like to earnestly listen to and take these opinions into account, but at the same time the mission of the Japanese delegations is to establish an environment where an athlete could focus on sports.

"So through sports we want to deliver hope and bravery and to make sure that each athlete can do their best in their performance."

The USA men's basketball team flew to Tokyo on Monday without Zach LaVine, but the Chicago Bulls guard has not been ruled out for the Olympics. 

USA Basketball announced LaVine had been placed under health and safety protocols and would not travel with the team, but said it hoped he would be able to join them later this week. 

Winners of the last three Olympic gold medals, the USA made two roster changes late last week, adding JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson to replace Kevin Love and Bradley Beal. 

Love withdrew because he has not fully recovered from a calf injury, while Beal had to drop out due to health and safety protocols. 

Head coach Gregg Popovich will hold out hope that LaVine is indeed able to rejoin the team before the July 25 Group A opener against France in Saitama. 

The 26-year-old is coming off his best season, establishing career highs with 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game and making the All-Star team for the first time.

He figures to play a key role for Team USA, if only because fellow backcourt mates Devin Booker and Jrue Holiday are still playing in the NBA Finals and may not be at full strength from the beginning of the Olympic tournament. 

LaVine started Sunday's exhibition win against Spain in Las Vegas and scored 13 points. 

Eight members of Great Britain's Tokyo Olympics athletics team are self-isolating after coming into close contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.

The six athletes and two staff members, who each tested negative for coronavirus before flying to Japan last week, are now under the supervision of Team GB's medical team.

The individual who tested positive for coronavirus is not from the British delegation.

Team GB chef de mission, Mark England, said: "This is disappointing news for the athletes and staff, but we absolutely respect the protocols in place.

"We will offer them every support during this period and we are hopeful that they will be able resume training again soon."

The number of Games-linked individuals to have tested positive for coronavirus since testing began on July 1 now stands at 58 as of Monday, a rise of three from Sunday's update.

The latest three individuals to have tested positive – a Games-concerned personnel, a Tokyo 2020 contractor and a member of the media – will isolate for 14 days in hotel rooms.

No further athletes contracting the illness will be considered good news for officials after three individuals tested positive in the athletes' village over the weekend.

Two of those were confirmed on Sunday to be Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi of the South Africa men's football team, with the other being the team's video analyst.

Twenty-one South African players and officials have been identified as close contacts of the pair and must also isolate to stop the virus spreading in the Olympic Village.

Around 11,000 athletes from 205 national Olympic committees are expected to stay at the village over the next three weeks.

The 2020 Games, delayed by a year due to the global health pandemic, officially begins on Friday and will be held mostly without spectators due to a state of emergency being declared in Tokyo.

Infection rates in the Japanese capital have topped 1,000 for five days running, with a seven-day average of 1,068 as of Sunday.

The United States will head for Tokyo with back-to-back men's basketball wins after accounting for Spain 83-76 in their final exhibition game in Las Vegas prior to the Olympic Games.

Team USA have had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, defeated by Nigeria and Australia in exhibition games last week and losing Kevin Love to injury and Bradley Beal due to health and safety protocols.

Gregg Popovich's side bounced back by beating Argentina on Tuesday and finished off their Las Vegas camp against the Spanish on Sunday.

Damian Lillard top scored with 19 points with six assists for Team USA, while Kevin Durant had 14 points, two assists, two rebounds and two blocks.

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine pulled off a series of dunks to put an exclamation mark on the performance.

Team USA are set to fly out for Tokyo on Monday, ahead of their Olympics opener against France on Sunday.

USA are grouped with France, Iran and the Czech Republic in men's basketball at the Tokyo Olympics where they are gold medal favourites.

In the women's USA defeated Nigeria 93-62 on Sunday to conclude their Olympic preparations, heading in as gold medal favourites too.

For athletes heading to Tokyo for the Olympic Games, winning medals would rank high on their list of priorities. For every Jamaican athlete who medals at the Tokyo Games, there is now an even greater incentive as anyone who wins a medal will get a bonus of free insurance for one year.

This latest incentive is one of the benefits from a recent partnership inked between the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and Marathon Insurance Brokers Limited. The partnership is valued at J$12 million and will run for the three-year period leading up to the 2024 Olympic Games.

In reference to the benefits, Ryan Foster, Secretary General/CEO, JOA, gave a broader perspective of the deal that was announced nearly one week ago.

“The JOA/Marathon partnership was centred around expanding our member services to our associations. For far too long we have looked at sport as just attending Games, but have not done enough to tap into the sport as an avenue for social change,” he said.

“One of the benefits of this partnership is for the direct benefit of our athletes for which all medalists at the Olympic Games will receive free insurance for one year. This is in addition to the comprehensive coverage that Marathon will be providing for all members attending the Olympic Games.”

Marathon Insurance has had a long partnership with the JOA, dating back to the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. This time they will be diving further into the deal with the JOA to deliver projects that involve the Athlete’s Commission and female empowerment through the Women’s Commission.

“The partnership has gone even further as Marathon will be partnering with the JOA and the Women’s Commission and Athlete Commission on various social projects geared towards, including, at-risk girls in sport and the expansion of Olympism values in schools,” Foster shared.

“All of these initiatives will be funded under this partnership and will involve the JOA engaging in providing not just mentoring and educational activities, but will involve nutritional support, school fees and school materials for the selected young athletes."

Ronald Koeman believes Spain should have given Barcelona teenager Pedri a rest rather than call him up for the Olympic Games.

The midfielder was a key part of the Spain squad that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020, becoming the first ever player to start six games in a single European Championship or World Cup aged 18 or below.

Instead of being given time off before the start of Barcelona's LaLiga campaign, Pedri is in Japan for the Olympic football tournament.

Spain play their first game in Group C against Egypt on July 22 before fixtures with Argentina and Australia.

Koeman told a media conference: "Pedri has played a lot. We will have to give him a break, everyone needs it during the [European] summer. 

"As Pep Guardiola said, playing two important tournaments in the summer is too much, but we can't do anything. 

"Pedri's European Championship was phenomenal. At the age of 18 he has played almost all the complete matches, with an impressive maturity. 

"His football continues to improve and he is a very honest and calm boy. He lives for football. He is an example of how to be a young man at Barca.

"It is important for our grassroots football, that young people see that they are in a club that gives them opportunities."

 

Also in Spain's squad for the tournament is defender Eric Garcia, who re-joined Barca from Manchester City on a free transfer.

Koeman tipped the 20-year-old former Barca academy player to have a big impact on the first team when he is able to link up with the club following the Olympics.

"He has had a great European Championship," Koeman said. 

"He comes from here and, despite his youth, he already has a lot of experience. He plays in the same position I did. 

"With the ball he is very good and we can improve from behind with him. He also has projection and a great future ahead."

Meanwhile, Koeman hopes Ousmane Dembele can make a swift return from injury.

The France forward, whose contract at Camp Nou expires at the end of the 2021-22 season, is recovering from surgery on a knee injury sustained at Euro 2020 that is expected to keep him out for four months.

Dembele's career since his move to Barca from Borussia Dortmund for €105million four years ago has been blighted by injury setbacks.

The 24-year-old has managed just 54 LaLiga starts in four seasons at Camp Nou, while last season he completed 90 minutes in the league on just five occasions.

"I am very disappointed with his injury," Koeman added.

"Also, the situation with his contract is complicated. It is a pity for himself and for us. 

"He brought us a lot last year, different from what we have. I hope he can come back soon."

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