Competition
  • LaLiga SmartBank

BARCELONA

Messi absence raises more doubts over Real Betis return

The Argentine star is always missed when unavailable but with others also missing for Barça, his return to action can't come soon enough.

Messi absence raises more doubts over Real Betis return

There is no doubt that right now all eyes at Barcelona are on the recovery of Lionel Messi. With Luis Suárez and Ousmane Dembélé out of contention for a place in the short term - and Philippe Coutinho out of the picture altogether for at least this season - the attacking options available to Ernesto Valverde are worryingly limited. Immediate hopes rest, therefore, on new boy Antoine Griezmann and Brazilian back-up Rafinha.

Messi-dependency already?

With that in mind, and following the defending champions opening day defeat in Bilbao, everyone was waiting to see if the Argentine talisman would be back working with the group on Tuesday. But that desired breath of relief did not appear in the morning session, with the number 10 continuing to work alone on his recovery.

Old foes | Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi vies with Athletic Bilbao's Spanish defender Inigo Martinez.

Old foes | Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi vies with Athletic Bilbao's Spanish defender Inigo Martinez.

This absence has increased the doubts over whether or not he will be ready to feature in Sunday's Liga match against Real Betis at the Camp Nou, especially after Valverde stated he did not want to take any risks with his star.

More Barça reading | Neymar: Barça left with no wild cards for PSG deal

The feeling is that the decisive day is Wednesday, when the squad faces a double training session. If the Blaugrana captain does not appear in either of these, then the likelihood is that he will be ready, at least to start, for the visit of the Sevillian outfit. In saying that, following the injury on August 5, the expectation was that he would return to training by this point, so his comeback should be imminent.

Working out | Messi looks to get back quickly.

Working out | Messi looks to get back quickly.

If the team takes to the field without their main man, the pressure will be on the likes of Rafinha and especially Griezmann to deliver, and Valverde will be working on a formation to allow for the absence of his other front men. He may also look at using Carlos Pérez in a supporting role.

An opening day loss is nothing particularly to worry about, especially away to a solid side like Athletic, but fans will start to get concerned if their side doesn't pick up all three points at home to Betis.