Tuesday, February 25, 2020 | ePaper

Troubled Barcelona look to Messi for inspiration

  • Print
AFP, 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.
"San Mames is always a difficult place to play," said Gerard Pique. "When you're not at your best, they make you look stupid."
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.
When Messi tweaked his calf, it was assumed an attacking roster of Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele would cope. - Lure of Neymar -
Instead, 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.
"This league is hard," Griezmann said. "We have to bounce back."
Another muscle injury for Dembele, his fifth in two years at Barcelona, is a concern, especially after the 22-year-old reportedly took time off in France instead of undergoing medical tests.
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.
The lure of Neymar also grows, even if Barcelona are yet to agree a deal with Paris Saint-Germain. The prospect of Real Madrid jumping in too, surely plays on the mind of president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Coming into the season, it was Madrid with the darker clouds hanging over them after a poor pre-season left some wondering whether Zinedine Zidane, more than Valverde, would soon be feeling the heat.
Instead, a retro-looking side, without a single summer signing, and with Gareth Bale, opened up last weekend with an assertive 3-1 win away at Celta Vigo.
"We had difficulties in pre-season with our results but not our work," Zidane said. "It was essential to start this way, by playing well and winning."
Bale was excellent and with Eden Hazard not expected back until after the international break, the Welshman should continue his reintegration against Real Valladolid on Saturday.
"We have to turn over a new leaf," said Sergio Ramos. "We can't regret or celebrate what's happened before. We start from scratch."
Atletico Madrid made a winning start too, at home to Getafe, even if a slightly nervy 1-0 win felt rather familiar, despite a handful of attacking signings this summer, including the hugely talented Joao Felix.

More News For this Category

Liverpool sink West Ham for record-equalling 18th successive win

Liverpool sink West Ham for record-equalling 18th successive win

AFP, Liverpool :Liverpool earned a record-equalling 18th consecutive Premier League win as the runaway leaders came from behind to beat West Ham 3-2 thanks to Sadio Mane's late strike on

Man City take fight to UEFA on and off the field

Manchester City may be set to go to war with UEFA, but time is of the essence for the English champions to satisfy their quest to win the Champions League.City

Bashundhara aim to return winning streak in BPL

Defending champions Bashundhara Kings looking forward to return winning streak as they face Brothers Union Club in the penultimate match of third round of Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) Football scheduled

Defiant Messi gives troubled Barca hope of Champions League glory

Defiant Messi gives troubled Barca hope of Champions League glory

Lionel Messi has said Barcelona are not playing well enough to win this season's Champions League but his four goals against Eibar on Saturday were a reminder that with him

Tevez fires Boca Juniors to fourth straight win

Tevez fires Boca Juniors to fourth straight win

Carlos Tevez scored one goal and set up another as Boca Juniors beat Godoy Cruz 3-0 in the Argentinian Superliga on Sunday.Tevez put the hosts ahead in the 19th minute

Neymar sent off as PSG beat Bordeaux in seven-goal thriller

Neymar sent off as PSG beat Bordeaux in seven-goal thriller

AFP, Paris :Edinson Cavani scored his 200th Paris Saint-Germain goal and Marquinhos netted twice as the Ligue 1 leaders bounced back from their Champions League defeat by Borussia Dortmund to

New Zealand fraud probe into ex-Oceania Football chief

New Zealand fraud probe into ex-Oceania Football chief

AFP, Wellington :New Zealand's Serious Fraud Office said Monday it is investigating former Oceania Football Confederation employees - including ex-president David Chung - after a complaint from FIFA.Authorities will probe

Ronaldo marks 1,000th game with record-equalling goal

Ronaldo marks 1,000th game with record-equalling goal

AFP, Rome :Cristiano Ronaldo scored for a record-equalling 11th consecutive Serie A game in his 1,000th professional match as Juventus extended their league lead on Saturday with a 2-1 win

A moment of the Bangladesh Premier League Football match between Saif Sporting Club Limited and Chittagong Abahani Limited at Rafiq Uddin Bhuiyan Stadium in Mymensingh on Sunday. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

A moment of the Bangladesh Premier League Football match between Saif Sporting Club Limited and Chittagong Abahani Limited at Rafiq Uddin Bhuiyan Stadium in Mymensingh on Sunday. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

Giroud, Alonso back in favour as Chelsea sink Spurs

Giroud, Alonso back in favour as Chelsea sink Spurs

Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso came in from the cold to inspire Chelsea's 2-1 win against Tottenham as the Blues cemented their grip on fourth place in the Premier League