Ronald Koeman’s assistant, Alfred Schreuder, was asked about Messi’s situation ahead of kick-off and offered an update on the 33-year-old, as reported by ESPN’s Samuel Marsden.
Leo had some physical problems so he’s not going to play today. We don’t take any risks with him. Also Dest has a little problem, so Oscar (Mingueza) is playing right-back. (Messi back for Sunday?) First we have to win today.
Messi sat out Barca’s final training session before the match on Wednesday and has a slight hamstring problem, according to Dermot Corrigan at The Athletic.
Coach Ronald Koeman admitted before the game at his pre-match press conference that Messi asked to be replaced in Barcelona’s last match, a 4-0 win over Granada, after feeling some discomfort.
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Barca Without Messi
Messi’s latest injury does not appear too serious but Barca will certainly hope the captain is not out for too long. The 33-year-old is bang in form with four goals in his last two matches.
Yet the team can take confidence from their recent record without the Argentina international in the side, as highlighted by Opta.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 13, 2021
The last time Barcelona played without their captain was against struggling Eibar on December 29 at the Camp Nou. The Catalan giants needed an Ousmane Dembele equalizer to rescue a point.
Focus on Griezmann
Messi’s injury means there will be plenty of focus on Griezmann to deliver the goods in the captain’s absence. The Frenchman has endured another underwhelming campaign at Barcelona but did end a recent dry patch with two goals last time out.
The World Cup winner admitted after the match he’d been having a tough time but was hopeful he was now back on track, as reported by Marca.
The first one wasn’t offside and that’s why I went for in, When Ousmane [Dembele] gives me the ball, I try to shoot and luckily it went in. They weren’t going in before but now it seems things are going well.
Griezmann now has seven for the season in all competitions and is Barca’s second-highest scorer in 2020-21 behind Messi on 14. Barca will be hoping he can continue his improved form against Real Sociedad.
Martin Braithwaite will also shoulder the goalscoring burden after replacing Messi in the starting XI. The Denmark international has been in and out of the team so far this season but has been a useful option for Koeman.
The striker has five goals to his name this season but has not found the back of the net in his last four outings and may feel he is overdue a goal.
Both Braithwaite and Griezmann played in Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Real Sociedad in December but neither were on target as goals from Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong secured the win.