Valverde wary of playing Messi against Sevilla

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is still feeling discomfort with his thigh and the club need to exercise caution to ensure he does not tear the muscle, coach Ernesto Valverde said on Friday ahead of his side’s La Liga game at Sevilla.

Messi joined up with the Argentina squad after ending Barca’s 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao with a muscle problem but did not feature in the friendlies against Italy and Spain.

The Argentine could only complete half Barca’s training session on Thursday and even though the club have not issued a medical report on the injury, Valverde declined to say whether he intended to pick his talisman on Saturday.

“We have to wait,” Valverde told a news conference on Friday.

“We are taking care of him, just as Argentina did. He has a little discomfort and we have to bear that in mind, because if it leads to a muscular tear then the situation is far more serious.”

Barca are 11 points clear of nearest challengers Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga and could afford to leave Messi out against Sevilla without the decision significantly impacting their bid for a 25th league title.

They host AS Roma in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, one of seven games in the space of 22 days.

“We prepare for tomorrow’s game in isolation of Wednesday’s but you always have to be thinking about the next week or two,” Valverde added.

“The accumulation of games makes you think about taking risks with a player. Tomorrow’s game is important but so is the next one and the one after that. On one hand you want to focus on each game, but you’re also thinking about the wider picture.”

The injured Sergio Busquets and French left back Lucas Digne are Valverde’s only certain absentees for the game against sixth-placed Sevilla, who host Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Valverde, however, expects Spain midfielder Busquets to recover from a toe injury in time to face Roma.

Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond