Lionel Messi’s injury woes continue with the Argentine superstar ruled out of Barcelona’s weekend meeting with Valencia, while he may not even be fit for the Blaugrana’s opening Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund next Tuesday.
Messi, 32, has not played for Barca since injuring his calf during his first training session of pre-season in August. He subsequently missed the club’s tour of the United States and hasn’t featured in any of their opening three La Liga games.
Head coach Ernesto Valverde said his star man would be available for selection following the international break and would be ready to face Los Che after Barca’s mixed start to the season.
An opening day 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao was followed by a 5-2 win over Real Betis then a 2-2 draw with newly-promoted Osasuna. His absence four a fourth domestic fixture now appears to almost be a formality, while it will also cast doubt on his involvement in Germany next week.
Valverde’s men travel to the intimidating Westfalenstadion to get their 2019/20 Champions League campaign under way in a tough Group F that also includes Italian heavyweights Inter Milan.
The attacker’s injury has been closely monitored by the club’s medical team but no return date had ever been specified, with Messi’s levels of discomfort being looked at on a day-to-day basis.
It was anticipated he would be back for the Osasuna game, but he didn’t feel right the day before the game and wasn’t risked.
Reports in the local media at the time suggested Messi was still facing another month on the sidelines, which would have ruled him out until the end of September. Barca knocked back that claim at the time, but the Argentine is still no closer to making his first appearance of the season.
A source at the club has told ESPN FC there is some “concern” over Messi’s fitness but the hope is still that he’s back sooner rather than later. The source added that he was able to do some training with the ball on Wednesday in the sandpit at the training ground.
Messi has continued to work alone on his recovery, missing Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions with the main group and his participation against Valencia, who beat Barca in last season’s Copa del Rey final, appears to be highly unlikely.
And, while the Camp Nou captain has not stopped working on his recovery and was aiming to return against Valencia, the player lacks full match fitness and the rhythm of featuring in competitive clashes, and is therefore unlikely to be risked.
Messi’s last competitive game was at the beginning of July, when he was sent off in Argentina’s third-place play-off win over Chile at the Copa America.
Meanwhile, Luis Suarez should be fit for Saturday’s game. The Uruguay international injured his calf in the loss at Bilbao but has stepped up his recovery during the international break.
Ousmane Dembele remains sidelined until the end of the month with a hamstring injury, meaning Suarez will be paired with Antoine Griezmann in attack.
Carles Perez is also likely to start, having impressed so far this season. Ansu Fati, 16, is still with the first team, too.
Ansu made his debut against Real Betis last month and became the club’s youngest-ever scorer in La Liga when he netted against Osasuna.
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Chile drew 0-0 with an Argentina side missing Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero in a fractious friendly at Los Angeles Coliseum which produced 10 yellow cards.
On paper it was a repeat of July’s Copa America third-place play-off, a game in which Chile’s Gary Medel and Messi were both sent off, but with the main stars missing it was much less of a spectacle at Los Angeles Coliseum.
Manchester City striker Aguero was rested while Messi is serving a three-month international ban for his derogatory remarks about officials at the Copa America.
Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez, on loan at Inter Milan, did feature but had a quiet game.
Chile’s best chance fell to Eduardo Vargas early in the second half but he fired over, while Argentina debutant Lucas Martinez almost won it but saw his header rebound off the crossbar five minutes from time.
Tottenham midfielder Giovani Lo Celso limped off early in the second half with what Argentina later said was a groin injury, although the player himself told media it was only a minor issue.
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Monaco midfielder Cesc Fabregas claimed that finding another player like Lionel Messi is impossible.
The pair shared the pitch at Barcelona and have remained close friends ever since. Fabregas declared the Argentine as one of a kind when asked if there will be another such player in the future.
“I think that’s probably impossible,” Fabregas told AS.
“We’ve seen the likes of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, amazing players, but Messi has been the best for 15 years. He’s in his 17th season and he’s been the best since he was 18 years old.
“I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. Every three days he scores goals, he heads off to play for Argentina, he comes back jet-lagged and scores a hat-trick… that’s not normal, believe me.
“I would have liked to enjoy playing more with Leo. I had a bit of bad luck in that respect. The first season we had together we had a great understanding. But the two following seasons was when I had my worst time with injuries. I wasn’t at my best at key moments and that affected everyone, including Leo.”
However, Fabregas admitted that Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe could reach great heights, given his potential. He backed the former Monaco forward to become the best in the world.
“He’s a phenomenon. He’s clearly going to be the best player in the world in the future,” Fabregas said of the striker.
“I always think like a midfielder and if I had him in front of me I’d be giving him assists all the time because he’s so fast, explosive, but he’s also very clever in slipping his markers.
“He has his timing down perfectly. [Thierry] Henry and Diego Costa were also brilliant at that. The thing that stands out about Mbappe is that he’s so hungry, he knows how to exploit his ability.”