Barcelona fans are not happy with manager Ronald Koeman’s decision to start Lionel Messi against Getafe on Saturday. The captain, who has played all of their three matches so far, will once again lead the team out despite playing twice for Argentina over the international break.
Messi scored the only goal in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Ecuador and then played all 90 minutes against Bolivia in La Paz on Tuesday in World Cup qualifying. The game was played at altitude which makes it physically grueling for the players.
The 33-year-old only returned to Barcelona training on Thursday afternoon, but Koeman had no qualms about putting him straight into his starting XI, a decision which has not impressed fans.
Messi starting here better mean he gets rested against Ferencvaros because he really should not be starting here. this is genuinely dangerous given he was playing at altitude in La Paz just four days (and one transatlantic flight) ago. #PrayForMessisHamstrings https://t.co/7uep3JzWGf
— Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt) October 17, 2020
Messi should not be starting this match for Barcelona. Playing two matches, one of which at altitude, he really shouldn't. But happy with Pedri, Dembele and Dest starting.
— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) October 17, 2020
WTF is Messi starting for? The season is long, the fixture list packed. I like Dest, Pedri and Dembele starting. But … https://t.co/iNRMhetJ9C
— kevinwilliams (@kevvwill) October 17, 2020
Messi not resting after ninety minutes running around in the altitude in Bolivia… I understand he wants to play every match, but it’s such an irresponsible risk.
— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) October 17, 2020
Koeman’s decision is particularly interesting given Barcelona have a hectic fixture list between now and the end of the month. After facing Getafe the team will head back to Barcelona to prepare for their first Champions League match against Ferencvaros on Tuesday.
The Catalan giants follow that up with a visit from champions Real Madrid in La Liga on Saturday and then head to Juventus in the Champions League four days later for what is a crucial group stage fixture.
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Rivaldo Talks Messi Rest
Koeman had been told to rest Messi ahead of the game by former Barcelona and Brazil forward Rivaldo. The 48-year-old offered the Barcelona boss some advice in his column for Betfair.
“Barcelona will return to action this Saturday at Getafe but Lionel Messi may be a little tired after his efforts for Argentina in this week’s World Cup qualifiers, especially as he played at high altitude at Bolivia.
“It’s not only a problem for Messi as many other players had to deal with it recently. But Messi should discuss with Ronald Koeman and the Barca doctors how to conserve his energy.
“I believe he wants to play this weekend, just like I did in similar situations during my career, so the decision could be more in Messi’s hands than anyone else. If he decides to play it will be difficult to stop him.
“In an early phase of the season, however, it’s important to avoid unnecessary injuries and that might mean sometimes he needs to rest. He could start on the bench but I’m sure that Messi will be determined to start, as he always wants to be out there.”
The Barcelona boss was asked about resting Messi in his pre-match press conference and also whether he thought the Argentina international could play the next four games in a row.
Koeman said that Messi has returned from international duty “with a lot of excitement, very motivated” and added his captain is the type of player who “wants to play every match.”
Koeman Makes Four Changes
Yet Koeman has opted to make some changes to his team. In defense, Sergino Dest has come in for the injured Jordi Alba and starts at left-back. It’s a full Barcelona debut for the 19-year-old who featured as a substitute in the draw over Sevilla.
Center-back Clement Lenglet returns from suspension and replaces Ronald Araujo, while Pedri and Ousmane Dembele have been handed their first starts of the season and the chance to impress.
The game is Dembele’s first La Liga start in 2020 after a tough time with injuries. The French forward will be keen to impress after appearing to slip down the pecking order at the Camp Nou.
Pedri’s inclusion is also an interesting choice by Koeman. The 17-year-old has only been at the club a matter of months but has already made two substitute appearances and seems to have made a big impression on Koeman already.