Barcelona rests Lionel Messi again in Champions League
MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi will get some time off for the last time this season in Barcelona’s Champions League match on Wednesday.
Messi, Marc-André ter Stegen and Philippe Coutinho will be rested by coach Ronald Koeman at Ferencváros in Group G. Barcelona secured a spot in the last 16 after winning its first four group matches.
Messi was previously rested against Dynamo Kyiv. Midfielder Frenkie de Jong was also left out of that match in Kyiv.
“I know it’s not usual, but with the calendar that we have this season, we only had two opportunities to rest Leo, in Kyiv and tomorrow (Wednesday),” Koeman said. “Of course he is a player who likes to play always, and that’s a good mentality. I asked him, but the final decision is always by the coach. The rest of the season he cannot rest anymore because then we play every three days.”
Koeman said Messi will remain crucial for Barcelona even if he doesn’t play as much or as well as in the past.
“Leo is always Leo,” he said. “Maybe it has been a slower start to his season, but he doesn’t need to score 30 goals every season. He has been working well and remains very important for us offensively.”
Koeman said Messi’s absence opens the way for others to get some minutes.
“I want to give opportunities to some other players,” he said. “Saturday’s match is very important for us in the (Spanish) league and we have to win it.”
Barcelona visits promoted Cádiz on Saturday in La Liga, where it sits in seventh place.
Barcelona has a three-point lead over Juventus in its Champions League group. Juventus hosts Dynamo on Wednesday and visits Barcelona in the final round.
Other Barcelona players will be absent on Wednesday because of injuries, including Gerard Piqué, Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti.
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