Ernesto Valverde Set to Unleash ‘Well-Rested’ Lionel Messi With Brazilian Pair Sidelined

?Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has admitted that Lionel Messi’s ability to have a rest during the international break has come as a ‘huge advantage’ to the club ahead of a congested list of fixtures. 

The five time Ballon d’Or winner took a rare break during Argentina’s latest friendly fixtures against Guatemala and Colombia in the United States, ensuring he starts the clash against Real Sociedad on Saturday with close to two weeks rest under his belt. 

FC Barcelona v Celta de Vigo - Spanish Copa del Rey

While Valverde revealed his plans to rotate his squad during of a congested schedule which includes five games in 15 days, he confessed it was welcome news to know his star man was well rested for the ?Blaugrana‘s next block of games. 

“Those players [who didn’t play in the international break] didn’t have that wear,” he told reporters during his pre-match press conference, via ?AS. “They’ve had more time to train, to rest.

“There’s that tiring experience of travelling, a lot of air miles, other players have had to do that, so generally it’s better for us, I won’t deny that.

“We always expect the best from ?Messi, as we do from any player, regardless of whether there’s a midweek game or not. We knew when players had to travel for their national teams and there are away games immediately afterwards, of course it’s a huge advantage to have him rested for the last week.

“We have another game in just three days’ time. Some of the players have been playing with small fitness issues so, yes, I might make some changes.”

Moreover, Barcelona will travel to face Real Sociedad – a side they have beaten just once on their previous eight visits – without Arthur or Malcom, with Rafinha Alcantara and Thomas Vermaelen making the final 18-man squad instead. 

Arthur was omitted from the travelling squad after featuring for Brazil during both of their international fixtures, whilst Malcom misses out due to picking up an ankle injury during training. 

Their return, however, poses a fresh challenge for Valverde as he added: “Yes, I’ve got to find room for them all and hopefully when they play we’ll win our games.”