Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has conceded that he will not risk Lionel Messi if he doesn’t feel as though his talisman is ready to play against Real Madrid.
The 31-year-old sustained a setback during the draw with Valencia at the weekend, which in turn put his participation in the midweek Copa del Rey clash in doubt.
As seen in the club’s tweet below, Messi has been included in the squad to face Los Blancos, but it remains to be seen whether or not Valverde names him in his starting line-up.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, the Barcelona coach has insisted that Messi must decide whether or not he feels ready to play, while he will weigh up the situation and take a decision, albeit he has heavily hinted that he will not take a risk on him.
“I’m not in favour of taking risks with so many games ahead, neither with Messi nor with anyone,” he told the media, as noted by Mundo Deportivo. “If La Liga ended tomorrow, that would be another thing. If there is a risk of injury, players play with the handbrake on. In a game like tomorrow you can’t play with the handbrake.
“The most important thing is that the player tells you that he is ready, no matter what the doctors say or what the tests indicate, if the player isn’t ready to play you have to leave them out. In the end, the decision is taken by me, valuing the risks, the pros and the cons.”
Messi has bagged 29 goals and 17 assists in 27 games so far this season, which indicates just how influential he has been yet again for the Catalan giants.
Especially given his track record of scoring in big games and when his Barcelona teammates need him most, his absence would be a huge blow in the first leg of their semi-final clash with Real Madrid.
Nevertheless, with key league games coming up coupled with the return of the Champions League and of course a second leg to play in at the Bernabeu later this month, if the Argentine icon hasn’t recovered fully, it would surely be wise to leave him out and let him fight another day rather than risk an extended spell on the sidelines if the injury issue is aggravated.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 5, 2019