Koeman Explains Why Messi Was Benched Against Betis

Lionel Messi


Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman took time out to explain why he left captain Lionel Messi out of his starting XI for Saturday’s La Liga clash against Real Betis at the Camp Nou.

The Argentina international had played every minute for club and country so far in 2020-21 but started the game on the bench with Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati, Pedri, and Antoine Griezmann given the nod in attack.

Koeman was asked about Messi’s omission after the game and explained the thinking behind the decision to start his captain on the bench, as reported by Marca.

We’ve been saying since [Friday] that he’d had some niggles since the game against Dynamo Kiev. We spoke and we decided to leave him on the bench in case we needed him. If he didn’t have any niggles, he would’ve played. We know who he is and I have no doubts over him. I see him work every day. He didn’t start, but he was very important in the second half.

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Messi to the Rescue

Koeman did opt to bring on Messi at half-time with the game tied at 1-1. It was to prove a crucial substitution that allowed Barca to go on and win the game comfortably, eventually cruising to a 5-2 victory.

Messi teed up Antoine Griezmann for the go-ahead goal within minutes of his arrival after producing a delightful dummy that allowed the ball to run to the Frenchman to slot home.

The Argentina international went on to make it 3-1 from the penalty spot after Dembele’s shot had been blocked on the goalline. Betis then pulled one back to make it 3-2 and set up a nervy finish.

Yet Messi struck again with a fierce effort from close range to make it 4-2 and put the game out of the visitors’ reach. Young midfielder Pedri eventually completed the scoring, netting the first La Liga goal of his career.

Alba Praises Messi

Left-back Jordi Alba praised Messi’s contribution after the game and admitted that his team looked a far different proposition with their captain on the pitch in the second half, as reported by Sport.

The quality of the squad is there, but both the team and I want Leo on the pitch. He is the best in the world and we always want him playing. It’s the coach’s decision. In the second half Messi has helped us a lot. It is clear that we are much better with him on the pitch.

The victory ends a run of four games without a win for Barcelona and sees them move onto 11 points from their first seven La Liga outings. The result will also ease some of the pressure on manager Koeman after an unimpressive start to the new campaign.

Meanwhile, Messi now heads off to join up with the Argentina team for World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Paraguay. Koeman will be praying that Messi doesn’t pick up an injury over the international break and returns in good shape to take on Atletico Madrid in Barca’s next match.

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