Lionel Messi is still not fit to return for Barcelona when they travel to newly-promoted Osasuna on Saturday.
The forward was not played since suffering a calf injury in pre-season and coach Ernesto Valverde revealed on Friday he hoped to have the Argentinian back after the international break, in time to face Valencia on September 14.
“He is following the normal recovery process,” Valverde told a press conference. “With this break we hope he will be available for Valencia.”
Without Messi, Barcelona have won one and lost one of their opening two LaLiga games, bouncing back from their defeat to Athletic Bilbao by thumping Celta Vigo 5-2.
Antoine Griezmann was on target twice in that game and, with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele also out injured, the goal-scoring burden will once again fall on the summer signing.
Osasuna have started the season better than Barca, with four points from two games, and are yet to concede.
Valverde is wary of their home form, saying: “Osasuna have always been a fearsome team at El Sadar. They will want to take advantage of being at home in front of their fans.”
Jagoba Arrasate’s side followed up their opening win at Leganes by holding Eibar to a 0-0 draw.
The hosts will be without winger Enrique Barja and defender Unai Garcia through injury, along with Luis Perea and Inigo Perez, who are still working towards full fitness.
Valverde also offered his support to former Barca player and manager Luis Enrique, whose nine-year-old daughter Xana died of bone cancer this week.
A minute’s silence will be held before all games in Spain’s top two divisions this weekend in her memory.
“I want to send a message to Luis Enrique, in what are difficult times for his family,” said Valverde.
“I want to convey love and send him a huge hug.”
Lionel Messi stepped up his recovery from injury last week as he performed gruelling running, shooting and strength drills on sand.
Messi missed Barcelona‘s pre-season as well as their first game of the campaign – a 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao – owing to a calf strain.
The Argentine will be in a race to be fit for Barcelona’s next La Liga game against Real Betis on Sunday.
He may be the best player in the world but he still puts in the hard yards.
Messi’s unusual training sessions on sand helped expedite his rehabilitation from injury while also making him match ready.
Lionel Messi says the Copa America may as well be awarded to Brazil in advance of Sunday’s final after launching a stinging attack at the competition’s officiating.
Messi’s international career took yet another frustrating turn on Saturday, as he was sent off for his part in an altercation with Chilean provocateur Gary Medel in Argentina’s 2-1 third-place play-off victory against Chile.
The 32-year-old – who is yet to win an international hour with his nation, despite his extraordinary record with Barcelona – alleged that ‘corruption’ has been at the heart of Argentina’s pain, to tournament hosts Brazil’s gain.
And he believes that the Selecao are certain to beat heavy underdogs at the Maracana on Sunday, even if they need help from elsewhere.
“I think there is no doubt. Unfortunately, I think it is prepared for Brazil [to win it],” said Messi, whose side were beaten 2-0 by Brazil in the semi-finals. “I hope that the VAR and the referees have nothing to do and that Peru can compete because they have the team to win, but I see it difficult.
“I feel lot of anger because I think I did not deserve that red card because I think we were playing a very good game. We were ahead, but, as I said recently, unfortunately there is a lot of corruption, the referees …
“We leave with the feeling that they did not allow us to be in the final, that we were ready for better. Brazil’s match and today’s match were our two best performances, but then when you are sincere, you say things and these things happen.”