Barcelona take on Alaves on Tuesday night as they hope to take another step towards defending their La Liga crown this season.
The Catalan giants could go 12 points clear of nearest rivals Atletico Madrid with a win, with Diego Simeone’s men hosting Valencia on Wednesday.
Piling the pressure on them to respond and stay in the race though will be key from a Barcelona perspective, and so the trip to Alaves will be crucial.
Coach Ernesto Valverde also has their Champions League commitments to consider as they face Liverpool in the semi-finals with the first leg coming up on May 1.
However, he’ll be hoping that his players can wrap up the domestic title before then to allow them to fully focus on their other targets, as they also remain in the hunt for the Copa del Rey.
With that in mind, many will expect Valverde to rotate in the coming weeks, but the Spanish tactician has still named a strong starting line-up for their midweek game.
It doesn’t include Lionel Messi though, as the Barca talisman has been rested for the clash with Ousmane Dembele getting the nod in the final third alongside Luis Suarez.
Samuel Umtiti is back in the XI as is youngster Carles Alena, and so while Valverde has made changes, it remains a very strong Barcelona line-up that should be more than capable of getting the desired result.
However, the decision to leave Messi out has sparked a mixed response as per the tweets below, as while some welcomed the idea to rest the Argentine icon, others questioned if the Barcelona boss was perhaps underestimating Alaves and could potentially deny Messi the Golden Boot award this season.
What matters most is surely keeping him fresh and clear of injuries for crunch showdowns to come, and so it remains to be seen if they can secure all three points without him and prove that the decision from Valverde was the right one.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 23, 2019
Finally Messi is taking a rest and also Jordi Alba… You learned from Rome Valverde
— Ivan Miranda (@Ivn_Miranda96) April 23, 2019
F8ck Valverde a$shole, he will rob Messi’s Golden boot
— Rebellion (@Me_Rebellion_) April 23, 2019
— Ernest (@ernest_onyegiri) April 23, 2019
NO MESSI ??????????
— preinou (@Livertad2017) April 23, 2019
Messi rested !
— Maestro RA (@Futzbolista) April 23, 2019
No we want Messi for the golden boot race ?????
— RollySituation (@RollySituation) April 23, 2019
Messi golden boot at stake ?
— New Era ! (@ibi_universe) April 23, 2019
Imagine Barca fans crying Messi is benched because y’all want him to win Golden boot.
Golden boot at the stake of UCL??
Very dumb thinking
— Your neighbor (@Fiks_daniel) April 23, 2019
Wtf no messi ?
— ganesh (@Messi_FCBworld) April 23, 2019