Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has left Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong out of his 19-man squad for Tuesday’s Champions League group stage match against Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine.
It’s a bold move by the Dutch coach who explained why the duo will not make the trip in his pre-match press conference ahead of the game.
We have various players out through injury and we decided not to take Leo or Frenkie because the situation [in the group] is quite comfortable for us. These two players need to rest because they have played a lot of matches, so we think this is a good moment to rest them.
They have played the most minutes and also with their national teams. Messi had a difficult trip back from South America. It’s a long trip and sometimes you need to protect the players.
The calendar of games is incredible. We play on Saturday, we play late, we travel, we come back early in the morning on Wednesday. It’s impossible to keep the players fit. For example the reason Sergi Roberto is injured is because of the many games he’s had to play.
Everyone knows it, but we have to continue playing a large number of games. It’s time for UEFA and FIFA to think about what we are doing with the players because it’s crazy.
Barcelona top Group G after three games with maximum points and will confirm their place in the knockout stages with victory on Tuesday. Koeman’s side won the reverse fixture at the Camp Nou 2-1.
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Koeman Responds to Messi Critics
Koeman also responded to criticism about Messi. The 33-year-old has yet to hit top form this season for Barca and has only scored once from open play in all competitions in 2020-21.
However, the Dutch coach made it clear he has no doubts about his captain’s quality despite his recent performances, “We speak about him too much. He has always had a lot of influence in this club’s success and he can still give more. I am convinced that he’s still the player we need.”
Both Messi and De Jong will be expected to return for Barca’s next La Liga game. The Catalan giants host Osasuna at the Camp Nou on Sunday and will need to win after defeat to Atletico Madrid last time out.
Debut for Mingueza?
Koeman’s decision to leave out De Jong also means 21-year-old Oscar Mingueza could be set to make his debut in defense. De Jong had been expected to line up alongside Clement Lenglet at center-back with Gerard Pique out injured.
Ronald Araujo and Samuel Umtiti are also sidelined and not included in the squad, meaning Mingueza now looks the favorite to make his first senior appearance for the Catalan giants.
Koeman gave little away about his team selection during his press conference but did concede it was a “possibility” that Mingueza could make his debut for Barcelona in Kiev.