Lionel Messi will miss the trip to Ferencvaros for the return fixture after sitting out Barcelona’s last Champions League match – after Ronald Koeman opted to rest his star player once again.
Messi’s absence for Barca in the Champions League is not a regular occurrence, particularly in recent times – the 4-0 win over Dynamo Kiev last time out being only the fourth in 43 matches in the competition that he has not featured in.
Nevertheless, one would expect Barca to easily see off their hosts on Wednesday even without their talisman and they are undefeated in their previous nine Champions League games without Messi since a 2-1 loss to Ajax in November 2013.
Barca cruised past the Hungarian champions 5-1 at Camp Nou in October and are already assured of a place in the next round having won all of their first four matches in Group G.
As such, Koeman wants to take every opportunity to rest his star player in what is proving a frantic season.
“I understand that it is not normal, but in the calendar this season there were two moments for Leo Messi to rest, Kiev and tomorrow, because we are already qualified,” Koeman told reporters on Tuesday.
“It allows me to give opportunities to other players and the Saturday games in the league are very important. From tomorrow there is no more [chance] to rest him.
“Leo is always Leo. He is very important in our attack. When the ball reaches him, it may be that at the beginning of the season it has cost him a little [in terms of fatigue]. He may not score 30 goals per season, but he is working well and it is very important in our attack.
“He always likes to play and it’s good that he has this mentality, but I spoke with him and asked him, but the final decision is up to the coach.
“I wanted to give him rest in Kiev and tomorrow. For the rest of the season he may not get any more rest because we play every three days.”
Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Philippe Coutinho have also been afforded rests and left out of the travelling party
Messi is expected to return to the starting XI for Barca’s final group match next week against Juventus and long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
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