Barcelona coach Luis Enrique says Lionel Messi will decide if he is fit enough to play in Wednesday’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal first leg tie at Athletic Bilbao.
Messi was substituted at half-time after scoring early as Barca hammered Athletic 6-0 in Sunday’s La Liga meeting between the sides.
The club’s medical staff have said that Messi had not suffered any hamstring injury, just took a knock, but the Argentine did not take part in Tuesday’s group training session and so remains a serious doubt for the game at San Mames.
The Blaugrana coach told his pregame news conference that a decision on Messi’s participation would be taken after consulting with the player on the morning of the game.
“[Messi] is fine, he has no injury, just some discomfort,” Luis Enrique said. “Tomorrow we will decide if he plays. The match squad will be announced tomorrow.
“I never like to take risks with any player. A final would be different. But that is not the case with Messi now, as he is not injured. Whether he plays will depend on how he is feeling.”
Luis Suarez looks even more unlikely to travel to the Basque Country, having been banned for two matches for his role in a tunnel incident following Barca’s 4-1 round of 16 first-leg win over Espanyol.
Even though Suarez then sat out his team’s 2-0 win in last week’s return game against Espanyol, the Catalan club have nonetheless appealed to the Spanish government’s Tribunal Administrativo del Deporte (TAD) in a bid to have the Uruguay international available for Wednesday’s game.
“The tribunal will have to make their ruling,” Luis Enrique said. “From there we will know if he can play or not.”
Neymar is the only member of Barca’s front three certain to feature, but Luis Enrique does not agree that Messi’s absence liberates the Brazilian.
“I don’t have the feeling that [Neymar] is better without Messi,” he said. “He is playing much better than last year, when he was already unbelievable.
“That is the greatness of this team. Every player is growing individually, and it benefits the collective. I have seen Neymar play good games with Leo alongside, and from Suarez with both there too.”
Sunday’s rout was aided by a red card for Los Leones goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz after just three minutes, while Athletic will also have a number of key players back.
“[Wednesday’s game] has nothing to do with the game played last week,” Luis Enrique said. “I would prefer to have won in La Liga, but it does not have any more meaning.
“They will have fresh players like [Iker] Muniain, [Markel] Susaeta and [Aritz] Aduriz. We need games like this to keep improving as a team.”
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