Maldera: Fati back and close to a start

Spaniard striker's return one of three fitness boosts for Albion.

By Bruce Talbot • 10 February 2024

By Paul Hazlewood
Thumbs up from Andrea Maldera and Ansu Fati after the striker's return to action.

Assistant head coach Andrea Maldera believes Ansu Fati is close to a return to Albion’s starting line-up.

The Spain forward returned as a late substitute in last Saturday’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace after ten weeks out with a hamstring injury and with Albion chasing glory on three fronts Fati will have a crucial role to play for the rest of the season.

“Ansu is in a good moment. We think he is very close to starting in the first XI,” said Maldera.

“He has worked with us these two weeks and probably I think today [against Spurs] he starts on the bench but he is ready to play. We are very happy. He doesn’t have a problem in his leg. He wants to play, he is looking forward to playing.

By Paul Hazlewood
Joel Veltman is back in the squad at Tottenham today, having not played since 17 December.

“He has big energy and for us he is a very important player because of his quality. In the first part of the season you will remember in the Europa League he scored goals and he is very important for us.”

Joel Veltman is also back in the squad today while Julio Enciso is back in training. 

Veltman has been out since 17 December when he limped out of the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal with a knee injury, and Maldera admitted that his experience has been sorely missed.

He added, “Joel is a player similar to Pascal [Gross], he's a big professional, a big person, and we miss him. But he has been working very well with us and we are very happy because he can play in different positions.

By Paul Hazlewood
Julio Enciso returned to training this week after more than five months out.

“Right back is his best position, but he can centre back if we need him there. He has experience and his approach to the match is always high. We are very happy that he is with us today.”

Further good news is Enciso’s return to training this week after more than five months out with a knee injury.

“Julio started this week as part of the team,” added Maldera. “He hasn’t done all training sessions but he started the first part with the team. To see Julio with the team is very good news for us. We are very happy for him.

We hope he can be ready in two weeks maximum if he continues to improve in the training sessions.”