Troubled Barca look to Messi to lift mood, avoid second slip - GulfToday

Troubled Barca look to Messi to lift mood, avoid second slip

Troubled Barca look to Messi  to lift mood, avoid second slip

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi along with other team-mates at at training session ahead of their Spanish League match against Real Betis on Sunday.

Madrid: Lionel Messi could be ready to play against Real Betis on Sunday and Barcelona could do with him back.

In other circumstances, Messi might have left it another week, having missed the whole of pre-season with a calf injury he sustained in his first training session back.

But after re-joining his team-mates on Wednesday, the temptation will be to put Messi straight to work, to lift the mood and minimise the chances of what would be a disastrous second slip in La Liga.

One defeat, by Athletic Bilbao inside a bouncing San Mames on the opening night and inflicted by a freakishly brilliant bicycle kick in the 89th minute, might ordinarily have been accepted as a blip.

Yet memories of Barcelona’s capitulation in May remain fresh.

The humiliation in the Champions League and submission in the final of the Copa del Rey mean this team and, in particular, their coach begin the season very much on the back foot. Ernesto Valverde is never far from blame, suspicion about his style and suitability always bubbling under the surface, despite the fact he is hoping to become the first Barca coach since Pep Guardiola to win three La Liga titles in a row.

Suarez and Dembele both picked up strains against Bilbao while Griezmann delivered the sort of hesitant display to suggest he may also need time to adapt.

It all means Messi’s return carries added urgency, even if it remains more likely the Argentinian will come off the bench at Camp Nou than be named in the starting line-up.

Agence France-Presse