Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has revealed that he’s hopeful Lionel Messi will be available to face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night.
The 31-year-old sustained a knock during the draw with Valencia last weekend, and in turn was forced to start on the bench for the Copa del Rey clash with Real Madrid on Wednesday night.
He did make his way onto the pitch just after the hour mark to suggest that it isn’t a serious issue, but evidently, the decision not to name him in the starting line-up for such a crucial showdown suggests that it was enough of a concern to avoid aggravating the problem.
With the second leg not until February 27, the focus for Barcelona now switches back to La Liga, as they travel to Bilbao on Sunday looking to get back to winning ways.
They’ll undoubtedly hope that Messi is available for selection, and Valverde has seemingly suggested that he’s hopeful that he’ll be at his disposal.
“You have to make the decisions based on what you think is best for the team and the player,” he is quoted as saying by Sport. “The other day (against Valencia), he ended up with a minor issue, but he was fine, much better.
“It was better for him to enter in the second half, I talked to him and he agreed.
“I hope so [faces Bilbao]. If he’s fine, he will play, and if he isn’t, he won’t, but we hope he is well.”
The Catalan giants also have the return of the Champions League to consider on February 19 when they travel to France to face Lyon for the first leg of their last-16 tie.
In turn, the last thing that they’ll want is to push Messi if the issue is still bothering him and risk losing him for an extended period of time.
Based on the fact that he came on against Real Madrid and now has a few more days to continue his recovery, it doesn’t appear to be that serious of a problem.