Lionel Messi to miss Barcelona’s LaLiga opening match

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16th August, 2019

Barcelona kick-starts its LaLiga title defence on Friday against Athletic Bilbao without its captain Lionel Messi who is recovering from an injury. Ernesto Valverde says he will not risk the player for the game. 

Messi did not feature in any pre-season game as he continues to recover from a calf injury.

However, the pair of Frenkie de Jong and Jean-Clair Todibo have returned to training ahead of the new season. Messi was not with his team-mates on Thursday having worked separately with the fitness coach earlier in the week.

Defending champions Barca go to Valverde’s former club Athletic Bilbao on Friday, though captain Messi will sit the game out as he builds his fitness.

“We’re not going to take risks with players and certainly not with him,” Valverde told a news conference.

“He’s not trained with the team since they came back and it’s different to train in isolation.

“We’ll wait a little to see how his recovery goes, it’s going well I understand, but we have to wait and see.”

Even though he won back-to-back titles since leaving Athletic for Barca two years ago, Valverde’s comparatively poor European record, coupled with his style of play, has drawn criticism.

“Everybody has this target, we want the best we can,” Valverde said on his ambitions for the 2019-20 campaign. “In the big games you want to raise your level but you’re always thinking about playing better.

“The question is how. Do you want me to look like George Clooney? That’s difficult. The most beautiful football is difficult too, but we try to be the best team with the best football and we are steadily improving.

“We had some excellent games last season, some not so good, but if I look back over my two years we’ve lost four league games, I think, mostly when we’ve already won the title, so I think we’re doing a lot of things right.”

The Barcelona coach admitted that it will be a difficult occasion facing his old club Athletic, where he spent four years in charge.

“It’s my home and San Mames is special for me,” Valverde said. “Personally it’s hard to go and play there, I like these games to be over as quick as possible.

“I know how the fans get behind them and how they put you under a lot of pressure. But you can put a lot of pressure on yourself as well.”

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