Barcelona: When do World Cup stars return?
By Max Parsons
Spain might have flopped at the 2022 World Cup, but the population of Barcelona will almost certainly have ended up at least content with the tournament's outcome.
Blaugrana icon Lionel Messi finally lifted the World Cup after Argentina's victory over France in the final - but there is little time for sentiment or celebration, because it's time to get right back to the regular season.
The majority of Barcelona's travellers will have returned well in time to assume preparations for their next fixture, which comes in the form of a New Year's Eve derby against Espanyol.
When do Barcelona's World Cup stars return?
A whopping 17 Barca players featured in Qatar, of which three failed to progress past the group stage.
Ronald Araujo and Marc Andre ter Stegen suffered despairing exits with Uruguay and Germany respectively, while Andreas Christensen exited with a disappointing Denmark side. All three travelled back in the midst of the action, and have been in first-team training since.
The bulk of the Blaugrana representatives travelled back early, with Poland's Robert Lewandowski joining a raft of Spain players to be dumped at the round-of-16 stage. Pedri, Gavi, Ferran Torres, Ansu Fati, Alejandro Balde, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Eric Garcia all suffered a shock exit at the hands of Morocco and, like Lewandowski, are already back in training.
As are Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay of the Netherlands who, like Brazil's Raphinha, travelled back to Barcelona having reached the final eight.
While no Barca representatives made it all the way, two of Xavi's men made the final. Ousmane Dembele and Jules Kounde will both be back in training and available for their club's next match after falling to defeat in the final with France.
When is Barcelona's next game?
As eluded to previously, Xavi and his players have a while before getting back onto the pitch, resuming their season with a derby clash against Espanyol on 31 December.
They'll look to maintain their two-point lead at the La Liga summit (with Real Madrid returning to action on 30 December) before a mouth-watering trip to Atletico Madrid marks their second match back on 8 January.