Lionel Messi has played nearly every minute of the season for FC Barcelona, and dragged Argentina to the World Cup in between. He got a rest in the Copa del Rey clash against Real Murcia, but beside that, the question remains: will Messi get another break?
Ernesto Valverde didn’t rest him against Olympiacos at home, nor against bottom-of-the-table Malaga at home. Maybe for the best, as both contests were relatively tight: Barcelona won 3-1 against the Greeks, but had to do so a man down for an entire half, and they were lucky to win 2-0 against Malaga, with a Gerard Deulofeu goal being wrongly allowed to stand.
Will Valverde rest him against Olympiacos away, having not rested him in the home fixture? Barça are in a good spot in their group, but not an insurmountable one for Juventus to challenge.
Then there’s a cup game against Murcia, then home to Celta (14th), home to Sporting (CL), away to Villarreal (6th), home to Deportivo (16th), and then away to Real Madrid (3rd). All that before Christmas.
So in the next two months, Barça will have played 5 of the top 6 sides after them in the league, with 4 of those 5 coming away from home. That’s not to mention Juventus, and not to mention the various other challenges awaiting. You can’t rest Messi then, can you? So don’t you have to rest him now?
There is one other option: that Messi is allowed not to travel for the international break, when Argentina plays friendlies.
The albiceleste are scheduled to play Russia and Nigeria, both in Russia, on November 11th and 14th. These are just friendlies, but can Jorge Sampaoli afford not to have Messi as he tries to settle his team?
They’re not playing friendlies in the country the next World Cup takes place in by accident. These are tune-up matches for a team that barely qualified for the World Cup and needs to find a way to get their big players – particularly Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala – on the same page as the world’s best. Sampaoli is unlikely to agree to leave Messi out.
That leaves today’s match as a candidate for Messi to rest. Social media is already going crazy because of pictures of Messi touching the back of his thigh, or maybe just his posterior… Is he going to succumb to a muscular injury? Ousmane Dembele was lost for 3 and a half months for a muscular injury. Losing Messi in similar circumstances would wreck Barça’s season.
Of course, not even a professional doctor could tell you if he was on the verge of injury based on two pictures. Don’t trust Twitter experts. Yet, their concern is not unfounded. Messi has played a lot lately. He could, theoretically, be on the verge of overworking a muscle to the point of injury. Let’s hope not.