Friday Kickoff: Neymar to miss time with ankle sprain; Balotelli set for medical; and more

Friday Kickoff: Neymar to miss time with ankle sprain; Balotelli set for medical; and more

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Friday Kickoff: Neymar to miss time with ankle sprain; Balotelli set for medical; and more

NeymarBarcelona2-Ajax (Getty)

By RYAN TOLMICH

Just days after returning from the back injury that ended his World Cup, Barcelona forward Neymar appears to be headed back to the sidelines.

The club announced Friday that the 22-year-old picked up a left ankle sprain Thursday in training, just three days after making his return to action in a friendly with Club Leon.

“Following the Thursday training session Neymar Jr. complained about some pain in his left ankle, and tests have confirmed that the player has a Grade 1 ankle sprain,” the statement said. “The club’s medical team has indicated that his return to training will depend on how the injury treatment evolves.”

Barcelona’s first game of the 2014-15 La Liga campaign comes Sunday when the club hosts Elche in the Camp Nou.

Here are some more news and notes to kick off your Friday morning:

BALOTELLI SET TO UNDERGO LIVERPOOL MEDICAL FRIDAY

A simple medical check is all that stands between Mario Balotelli and a return to the Premier League.

The Italian forward is reportedly set to undergo a medical on Friday ahead of a move to Liverpool, which reportedly agreed to a $26.5 million fee with AC Milan to acquire the 24-year-old striker.

The two sides reportedly agreed on personal terms early Friday, with Balotelli signing off on a series of behavioral clauses that were included in Liverpool’s proposal.

Balotelli scored 18 goals in all competitions for AC Milan last season and scored the game-winning goal in Italy’s clash with England at this summer’s World Cup.

DESPITE FEELING UNDERVALUED, ALVES TO REMAIN WITH BARCELONA

Having been named to the FIFPRO World XI four out of the past five seasons, you would think Barcelona defender Dani Alves would feel valued by his own fans.

But Alves stated Thursday that he feels underappreciated by both Barcelona fans and the club itself, which he feels has done little to stand up for him in the face of public criticism.

“I haven’t felt that I have had support when I have had to defend myself in the face of everything that comes out in the press,” Alves said. “Publishers need to sell newspapers and there will always be speculation in the press but I have read articles about the club looking for a substitute for me. I have always been clear that my plan is to stay here because I am still under contract.

“When the time comes, I hope I can leave knowing that I have lived up to everything that was asked of me and not that I haven’t got anything to give because I have a lot to give this team.”

Despite the criticisms, Alves insists he is ready to do his best for Barcelona until his contract expires in 2016.

“Sometimes it’s as though everything that goes wrong is my fault,” Alves said. “Now we have a new challenge ahead of us, and that motivates me. My contract expires in 2016 so I have this season and then the next and if there are no changes then that’s what’s left to run on my contract.”

“My desire is the same as ever, whatever nonsense is said about me. I want to win and Barça to be the best, although doing that gets harder every year. We’re ready to confront all of the challenges that lie ahead.”

QUICK KICKS

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal is set to meet with Danny Welbeck to discuss the forward’s future with the club. (REPORT)

French national team manager Didier Deschamps has left the door open for a Franck Ribery return to the international game. (REPORT)

West Bromwich Albion added former Celtic striker Georgios Samaras on a free transfer. (REPORT)

QPR signed Chilean forward Eduardo Vargas on a season-long loan from Napoli. (REPORT)

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How will Barcelona fare without Neymar? How far can Liverpool go with Balotelli? Where do you rank Alves among the world’s best?

Share your thoughts below.

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