Ernesto Valverde is hoping to finally unleash Lionel Messi on La Liga this weekend as the talismanic Argentine appears likely to feature in Barcelona‘s away trip to Granada.
The reigning champions, currently in fifth place, are struggling away from the Camp Nou and are winless so far this season with a 2-2 draw against Osasuna, and a 1-0 defeat against Athletic Bilbao.
Valverde’s side also drew 0-0 against Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener in midweek and were indebted to Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s penalty save from Marco Reus, while the hosts also rattled the crossbar.
Messi, who played his first minutes of the season against Dortmund, is set to start on Saturday evening.
“I saw him well despite the difficulty of the game and because he was playing after such a long period out of the pitch,” Valverde said of Messi’s cameo off the bench in Germany.
“He did not play during the pre-season, so he was not in the best possible shape to play a very physical game. He showed up in the game and in general he was fine.
“Of course, as soon as he’ll play more games, he will get a better shape, and will add more things to the team. We hope he will play tomorrow.”
Newly promoted Granada have won two games so far this season (against Celta Vigo and Espanyol), drew one (Villarreal), and lost one (Sevilla), scoring nine and conceding five goals.
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.
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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