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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