Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has been hit with a two-game ban after being sent off in Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup final defeat to Athletic in Seville.
The Argentine saw red after lashing out at Asier Villalibre deep into extra-time and has now been sanctioned for by the Royal Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) Competition Committee, as reported by Goal’s Ruben Uria.
Messi’s ban means he will sit out Thursday’s Copa del Rey trip to Cornella and Barcelona’s La Liga game against Elche on Sunday at the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero.
Indeed the next game Messi could play for Barcelona is against Athletic yet again. The two teams meet for the third time in 2021 on January 31 in La Liga at the Camp Nou.
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The Villalibre View
Messi’s red card was the first he had received in a Barcelona shirt after going 753 appearances for the Catalan giants without being sent off, according to Opta.
Athletic striker Villalibre, who was on the receiving end of Messi’s frustration, said he was not surprised to see the Argentina international receive his marching orders, as reported by Sport.
It seemed clear to me, I put my body in the way and he got angry, he hit me in the face and I think that it’s a clear aggression. In the end it’s normal, that impotence, that minute. Losing, a player gets frustrated. No worries. We don’t have to get into controversies.
Villalibre was a little fortunate not to join Messi in seeing red. The striker was already on a yellow card when he impeded Messi, which led to the Barca star lashing out, but escaped a second booking from referee Gil Manzano.
Barca Without Messi
Messi’s ban will be a blow but does not come at the worst time with the captain having struggled with injury over the last week. The Argentine missed the Super Cup semi-final win over Real Sociedad and may benefit from a rest after coming back and playing 120 minutes against Athletic.
It was unlikely Messi would have faced Cornella on Thursday in any case. Guillermo Fernández’s side play in the third tier of Spanish football, meaning Ronald Koeman is expected to select a heavily-rotated team for the match.
Barca will also be expected to cope comfortably without Messi against Elche who are in the relegation zone in La Liga. Striker Martin Braithwaite is the most likely player to replace Messi in the starting XI on Sunday.
Koeman will then be able to welcome Messi back and will hope he can recapture the sort of form he showed before the Super Cup. The 33-year-old has scored four goals in his last two La Liga matches, including a double in a 3-2 win over Athletic at San Mames.
The captain may certainly not lack for motivation if he does make his return against Athletic. Barca were within minutes of winning the Super Cup on Sunday before Oscar da Marcus equalized and forced the game into extra-time.