Barca coach Valverde gives few hints about Messi's fitness

by Leon Thompson February 7, 2019, 0:40
Barca coach Valverde gives few hints about Messi's fitness

Barcelona's talisman Lionel Messi is on the bench having not been deemed fit enough to start having picked up a leg injury against Valencia at the weekend.

He returned to training with the team on Tuesday and had been doubtful for the first leg of the semifinals against Madrid.

"The most important thing is for the player to tell you that he is ready", coach Ernesto Valverde said. The Argentine is the top scorer in La Liga with 21 goals and has scored in his last nine appearances, but Barca beat Madrid 5-1 without him earlier this season.

Keylor Navas of Real Madrid during the Copa del Rey second leg Quarter Final match between Girona FC and Real Madrid at Montilivi Stadium on January 31, 2019 in Girona, Spain. "It's one of the hardest parts of the job for a coach".

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Real Madrid's will be without defender Jesus Vallejo in an otherwise fully fit squad.

Barcelona's preparation for the Copa del Rey semi-final opener have been marred by a mini injury crisis which has seen Ousmane Dembele, Jasper Cillessen, Samuel Umtiti and Rafinha all ruled out. Judging it off recent performances, there is no debate but Solari understands that he needs Marcelo to recover his best level and not playing at the Camp Nou could have a serious knock-on effect for the Brazilian.

It would also be hard to leave out Vinicius Junior, who has taken full advantage of Bale's absences to become a regular starter and a popular player with Madrid fans.

Ahead of a Copa America campaign later this year, Argentina are scheduled to face Venezuela and Morocco in friendlies next month. Asked about the fitness of Messi, he said: "It's always better when the best players get to play, it's as simple as that".

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