Barcelona returned to training on Sunday after a brief Christmas break with captain Lionel Messi a noticeable absentee.
The Argentina international did not take part in the session and will not return to first-team action until after their final game of 2020 against Eibar at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 27, 2020
Messi has spent the Christmas period in Argentina. The 33-year-old reportedly flew straight back to his homeland after Barcelona’s 3-0 win at Real Valladolid on December 22.
The Barca captain “has been granted permission to remain in his homeland for a few more days” but “will return to training after the Eibar game and will be available for Sunday’s trip to Huesca in La Liga,” according to Samuel Marsden at ESPN.
Barca play their first fixture of 2021 away at Huesca on January 3.
Follow the Heavy on Barcelona Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
How Will Barcelona Line Up Against Eibar?
Messi’s absence will mean Koeman will have to make changes to his team for the visit of Eibar. The Dutch coach raised eyebrows with his teamsheet for the trip to Real Valladolid, leaving both Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho on the bench.
The two players will be hoping to return to the starting XI on Tuesday, and it certainly looks likely at least one of the pair will come into the team to replace Messi. Pedri looks set to continue after a stirring display against Real Valladolid that drew praise from Koeman, as reported by Sport.
Pedri is a good player from a more central position between the lines and his connection with Leo and the others is very good. He is playing well, working hard and without the ball is important to our team. It seems he’s comfortable in his game.
Striker Martin Braithwaite may also get the nod after scoring his fifth goal of the season in all competitions last time out against Real Valladolid. The Denmark international was out of favor at the start of the campaign, but Barca have looked better with a No. 9 in the team.
Koeman will also need to make changes to his backline as left-back Jordi Alba is suspended for the match. The Dutch coach played with three central defenders last time out, but it remains to be seen if he will continue with that formation.
Messi to Reveal All in New Interview?
Meanwhile, a new interview with Messi is due to be broadcast before Tuesday’s game. The captain has been talking to La Sexta’s Jordi Evole and the program will be broadcast on Sunday.
Evole told Cadena SER’s Carrusel Deportivo, as reported by Marca, that Messi, “told me about very concrete plans for the future. He told me how he wants to finish [his career] and that surprised me.”
Messi also spoke about his favorite coaches and said that he was lucky to “train under Guardiola and Luis Enrique, the two best,” according to Marca.
The Barcelona captain’s future remains the subject of speculation with the forward out of contract at the end of the 2020-21 season and able to walk away from the Camp Nou for free.
Messi told Barca he wanted to leave last summer but it’s not clear if he still wants to quit the club or is willing to stay. Sunday’s interview may offer more clues as to Messi’s mindset and his plans for the future.