25th September, 2019
As far as Javi Calleja is concerned, Barcelona were not as “superior” to Villarreal after Lionel Messi left the game against Villareal at half time as a result of another injury scare.
The Barca captain, who was making his first start of the season after sustaining a calf injury, suffered an adductor pain during the opening period of the clash at Camp Nou in LaLiga on Tuesday. He returned to the pitch but was replaced by Ousmane Dembele at half-time.
Before then however, Messi had already set up Antoine Griezmann for the opening goal, followed by Arthur’s rocket shot from outside the box doubling Barca’s advantage.
Thereafter, Santi Cazorla reduced the arrears before half-time with a swerving effort that fooled Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but Ernesto Valverde’s team saw out a much-needed 2-1 win after losing 2-0 at Granada on Saturday.
“[Messi] played the first half. The team worked to ensure he was not decisive. When he’s on the pitch he makes a difference, although it’s true he had some discomfort,” said Villarreal coach Calleja.
“Without Messi they are not as superior, that is evident, but we know how to stop them. We were unable to do more damage or defend better at the beginning.
“We are hurt by the defeat, but happy with our job.”
Towards the end of the game, Ansu Fati replaced Luis Suarez and went close to sealing the three points before seeing an appeal for a penalty turned down following a VAR review.
“I was amazed. He did everything right,” Calleja said of the 16-year-old attacker.
“He has huge quality and he is not weighed down by the responsibility. For a football lover he is a joy to watch.”
On the other hand, Barcelona’s head coach Ernesto Valverde said the world seems to stop whenever something happens to Lionel Messi as he discussed the star’s latest injury worry.
Lionel Messi was making his first start of the season after battling a calf injury and Valverde said he was simply unwilling to take risks with the 32-year-old.
“When something happens to Messi the world stops, not only here,” he told a news conference.
“I don’t think it’s serious. We don’t want to take any risks. We will see tomorrow [Wednesday], I can’t tell you anything now.
“He has been injured for a long time and we don’t want to take any risks at the moment.”
The coach also talked about the importance of the result for his team after their shock loss to Granada on Saturday.
“Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong. We played three days ago, rotations are always needed in these sort of occasions,” he said.
“This was a cup final for us, we lost the last match. We needed fresh players in midfield especially.
“Villarreal are a good team, [Karl Toko] Ekambi is a very dangerous player, he’s very fast. [Santi] Cazorla and [Gerard] Moreno are brilliant as well.”
The defending champions, Barcelona who presently occupy the fourth position in the LaLiga standings, make a trip to Getafe on Saturday.