Lionel Messi Benched By Barcelona For La Liga Clash

Lionel Messi


Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has been left out of the starting XI for the first team this season by manager Ronald Koeman. The Argentine starts Saturday’s La Liga clash against Real Betis at the Camp Nou on the bench.

The news is a surprise given Messi has played every minute for club and country this season and also because this is Barca’s final game for two weeks due to the international break.

It’s also an important fixture for the Catalan giants. Koeman’s men head into the match without a league win in their last four games and could do with all three points from this one.

Messi has not been in top form for Barca this season but has still been a key figure for the team. He’s scored four goals, all from the penalty spot, but unusually has not managed a single goal from open play in nine appearances in 2020-21.

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Is Messi Injured?

Koeman spoke about the possibility of resting Messi in his pre-match press conference on Friday. The Dutch coach insisted he would leave players out of his team if they weren’t 100%.

There’s been no announcement from Barca that Messi is indeed suffering an injury, but there is conflicting information flying about regarding why the Argentine is not in the starting XI.

If Messi has picked up an injury then it may just have come at a good time for Barcelona with their next game not until November 21 against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

However, Argentina will be keen that their captain is fully fit and available for selection. He is due to meet up with the national team for World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Peru.

Who Will Barca Cope Without Messi?

Koeman has opted for an attack of Ousmane Dembele, Pedri, Ansu Fati, and Antoine Griezmann for Saturday’s match against Betis. Dembele and Fati will provide plenty of speed and trickery along the flanks with 17-year-old Pedri once again trusted by Koeman.

Yet Messi’s absence will pile even more scrutiny on Griezmann. The Frenchman has had a difficult start to the season and has managed just one goal for Barca so far in 2020-21.

The former Atletico man has also been guilty of some poor finishing in front of goal and missed a glorious chance in midweek against Dynamo Kiev. Barca will need Griezmann to be at his sharpest against Betis with Messi only on the bench.

The Frenchman does have some fond memories of taking on Betis for Barcelona. He scored twice and picked up an assist in a 5-2 win over Los Verdiblancos in the corresponding fixture last season.

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