WORLD CUP WATCH: Dybala a fitness worry after another injury

Oct 10, 2022, 1:18 AM | Updated: 1:24 pm
AS Roma's Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring to 1-0 during the Europa League soccer match betwee...

AS Roma's Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring to 1-0 during the Europa League soccer match between AS Roma and Real Betis in Rome, Italy, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse via AP)

(Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse via AP)

              Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp, left, talks with Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold after substitution during the Champions League Group A soccer match between Liverpool and Rangers at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday Oct. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
            
              Roma's Paulo Dybala in action during the Europa League soccer match between AS Roma and Real Betis in Rome, Italy, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse via AP)
            
              AS Roma's Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring to 1-0 during the Europa League soccer match between AS Roma and Real Betis in Rome, Italy, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse via AP)
            
              AS Roma's Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring to 1-0 during the Europa League soccer match between AS Roma and Real Betis in Rome, Italy, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse via AP)

MILAN (AP) — For Paulo Dybala, the joy of scoring a penalty quickly turned into the anguish of potentially missing the World Cup.

As the Argentina forward turned away to celebrate converting his spot kick for Roma against Lecce in Serie A on Sunday, he suddenly grimaced, clutched his left thigh, and hobbled as teammates mobbed him.

Dybala limped off the field and appeared to have tears in his eyes as he sat on the bench, the upcoming World Cup likely in his thoughts.

“I’ll say it’s not looking good, rather than say it’s looking bad,” Roma coach José Mourinho said immediately after his team’s 2-1 win. “Unfortunately, it’s probably looking closer to bad than it is to not good.”

Mourinho was then asked if the Roma fans would see Dybala before the end of the year.

“I am not a doctor and I have not talked with the doctor,” he said, “but, from experience and from what I’ve understood from speaking with Paulo, it’s difficult.”

Roma’s last match before Serie A stops for the World Cup is on Nov. 13, a week before the tournament kicks off in Qatar. Argentina plays its first match on Nov. 22, against Saudi Arabia.

The results of a scan, scheduled to be taken on Tuesday, will determine if Dybala’s World Cup dream is still alive but it is clearly a big worry for Argentina and the 28-year-old forward, who has had a long list of injuries in his career.

Indeed, that was part of the reason Juventus allowed Dybala to leave as a free agent in June. Dybala has endured 11 injury layoffs over the past two years, missing a total of 36 matches for his club.

It is not even his first injury at Roma as he missed the match against Atalanta last month with a muscular problem. He nevertheless joined Argentina’s squad immediately afterward for friendlies against Honduras and Jamaica but was forced to watch from the stands, with coach Lionel Scaloni saying: “I decided not to risk him. I need him for a much higher level.”

However, Argentina does have a wealth of attacking options with the likes of Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martínez, Papu Gomez and Joaquín Correa — although Messi also has a minor injury — and Scaloni is unlikely to call upon Dybala unless he is certain the forward is fully fit.

Scaloni left Dybala out of the victorious Copa América squad last year precisely because of injury and fitness concerns, and the Roma forward will be hoping history is not about to repeat itself.

CONCERN OVER KANTE

N’Golo Kante was integral in France’s run to the World Cup trophy in Russia four years ago. He might be struggling to be there for the title defense.

The central midfielder hasn’t played since Aug. 14, when he sustained a hamstring problem on English Premier League duty for Chelsea. It’s the latest in a string of injury issues to beset Kante in recent years.

Chelsea manager Graham Potter said on Monday that Kante suffered a fresh setback in training in his fight to shake off the injury and is set for another scan.

“We have to wait and see the extent of it, and go from there,” Potter said.

ALEXANDER-ARNOLD INJURY

It was already questionable whether Trent Alexander-Arnold was going to make England’s squad for the World Cup.

An injury sustained at the weekend while playing for Liverpool likely damaged his chances even more.

Alexander-Arnold didn’t come out for the second half of the 3-2 loss to Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday after hurting his ankle while challenging Gabriel Martinelli just before halftime.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said Alexander-Arnold’s ankle was swollen and the right back would need to undergo a scan.

A spell on the sidelines is likely for Alexander-Arnold, just when he needed to be putting in some performances to impress England coach Gareth Southgate.

Southgate appears to prefer more defensively strong right backs, meaning Alexander-Arnold — whose attacking qualities have far outweighed his defensive ones for Liverpool over the last few years — is the fourth-choice right back for his country behind Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier.

Walker is facing a race against time to be fit for the World Cup after undergoing surgery last week on a groin injury. Luckily for Southgate, right back is one area where he can take an injury or two.

___

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WORLD CUP WATCH: Dybala a fitness worry after another injury