Barcelona has received some good news on captain Lionel Messi and key center-back Ronald Araujo ahead of the international break scheduled for the end of March.
CONMEBOL has confirmed the two rounds of World Cup qualifiers in South America scheduled in March have been postponed and will not go ahead as planned due to Covid-19 and the quarantine and travel restrictions in place around the world.
The decision means that Messi and Araujo will not have to travel and will instead be allowed extra rest ahead of the final stretch of the 2020-21 season. The condensed campaign means Barca has had to cope with a packed schedule with a game every three days.
Messi was due to take on Brazil and Uruguay with the Argentina national side, while Araujo had been named in the Uruguay squad for La Celeste’s two qualifiers against Argentina and Bolivia.
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Messi Set For Rest
The decision to postpone the qualifiers gives Messi a rare chance to rest. The 33-year-old has once again been vital to Barca’s campaign and has featured 34 times in all competitions in 2020-21.
Messi is once again La Liga’s top scorer with 19 goals and is on course to land the Pichichi award for a record eighth time. He’s also been a regular when it comes to supplying goals for Barca.
Barca plays three more games before domestic football is due to pause. The Catalan giants travel to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday and face La Liga games against Huesca on March 15 and Real Sociedad on Sunday 21.
Ronald Koeman’s side are then not scheduled to play until April 4 against Real Valladolid, giving Messi and Araujo a welcome break ahead of a hectic run. Barca plays four La Liga games in April, including a Clasico against Real Madrid, as well as the Copa del Rey final.
Barca’s Champions League hopes looks slim, with the team 4-1 down after the first leg against PSG, but the team remains in contention for domestic silverware. Koeman’s side is just three points behind Atletico Madrid in La Liga, although the Rojiblancos have a game in hand, and take on Athletic in the Copa del Rey final on April 17.
Araujo Becoming Key
The break will also surely be welcomed by Araujo who has struggled with ankle injuries in recent weeks. The center-back has become a key figure in defense but suffered a sprain against Real Betis and went off injured again on his comeback against Sevilla.
The Uruguayan is yet to return from his latest knock and was not deemed fit enough to be included in the squad for Saturday’s win over Osasuna in La Liga. Koeman will want him back as soon as possible with Gerard Pique also currently sidelined with knee trouble.
The Barca boss has employed three center-backs to good effect in recent weeks, and the new formation has brought wins over Sevilla, in La Liga and the Copa del Rey, and against Osasuna.
Injuries to Araujo and Pique means Koeman only has three senior center-backs fit, in the shape of Clement Lenglet, Oscar Mingueza, and Samuel Umtiti, a situation that leaves him short of options defensively.
Pique and Araujo look certain starters when fit, and Koeman will certainly want the pair at 100 percent and available for upcoming crucial matches in La Liga and particularly for the Copa del Rey final.