Barcelona will have to cope without captain Lionel Messi for tonight’s Spanish Super Cup semi-final against Real Sociedad in Cordoba.
The 33-year-old has been left out of the team for the match due to concerns over a leg injury. Martin Braithwaite comes into the starting XI in place of the Argentine.
↪ Neto, Iñaki Peña, Dest, Pjanic, Riqui Puig, Trincao, Umititi, Junior i Ilaix
❌ Messi, descartat
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona_cat) January 13, 2021
Yet there is some good news for Barcelona. Center-back Ronald Araujo is back after missing Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Granada. The defender picked up a hamstring strain in the warm-up but has been passed fit and replaces Samuel Umtiti.
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Is Messi Injured?
Messi’s absence is not a complete surprise. The captain missed Barcelona’s final training session ahead of the match on Wednesday morning and was subsequently rated as “unlikely” to feature
Unlikely Messi plays tonight. No final decision yet but no risks
— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) January 13, 2021
Koeman admitted in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday that the Argentina international asked to come off in Barcelona’s last match, a 4-0 win over Granada on Saturday in which Messi scored twice.
There were several players that had some discomfort the other day. That’s why we took Messi off, we took Frenkie and Dest off as well. It seems all of them are going to be available tomorrow. Also Araujo, we have the training session this afternoon as well to see if they are all fit to play tomorrow.
According to Moises Llorens at ESPN, Messi hasn’t completely recovered from the discomfort he felt against Granada and was not feeling great on the morning of the game which is why he did not train.
The Argentina international is not even on the bench against Real Sociedad but was spotted getting off the team bus ahead of the game in Cordoba with strapping on his left leg.
Messi llega al Nuevo Arcángel con un vendaje en la pierna izquierda… pic.twitter.com/6kowbwyEC5
— moisESPN (@moillorens) January 13, 2021
The Argentine’s absence certainly represents a huge blow to Barcelona. The forward’s been in great form since returning to action after the festive period during which he underwent treatment on an ankle problem.
The captain has scored four goals and picked up an assist in his last three outings for the Catalan giants. Yet Koeman is clearly unwilling to take any risks at all with Messi such is his importance to the team.
There’s been no indication from Barcelona about the severity of Messi’s problem and how long he will be out for. If Barca beat Real Sociedad they go on to play Real Madrid or Athletic in the final on Sunday.
How to Replace Messi?
Koeman is also without attackers Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho for the match due to injury which means Braithwaite is the man chosen to replace Messi in the line-up.
The Denmark international will feature alongside Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele in attack. The two Frenchman have been in good form recently for Barcelona, Griezmann scored twice against Granada and Dembele has started Barca’s last three.
Elsewhere, Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, and Pedri all start again, while Oscar Mingueza comes in for Sergino Dest at right-back with Jordi Alba set to feature on the opposite flank.
Yet Koeman will need no reminding that Barca struggled last time out without Messi. The team were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Eibar on December 29 and had to come from behind to snatch a point.