Barcelona have left Lionel Messi out of their 19-man squad to face Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Manager Ronald Koeman has decided to rest Messi and midfielder Frenkie de Jong for the Group G match in Ukraine, with fixtures coming thick and fast and a growing concern with injuries in the squad.
Koeman advised it was the right time to give the pair a break because they are in a good position in their group and need to focus on LaLiga after a struggling start, which has left them 12th.
“We’ve got various players out due to injuries and we have decided that we won’t be taking Leo or Frenkie because the situation in the Champions League is something that is quite comfortable with the nine points that we’ve got,” Koeman said on the omissions.
“These two players need to rest because they have played a lot of matches and we think this is a good moment to rest them.”
The superstar forward is due a rest after missing just 45 minutes of action in total for the Catalan side this season and he played in every minute of Argentina’s games against Paraguay and Peru last week.
Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi has netted six goals in 11 games for Koeman’s side this season but five of those have come from the penalty spot.
Messi looked lackadaisical against Atletico Madrid and his reliance on penalties so far this season has seen questions asked about whether his waning influence in the final third is due to being overworked.
The club can ill afford another injury after Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto joined Ansu Fati and Samuel Umtiti in the long-term absentee list.
Barcelona confirmed on Sunday that Pique, who went off against Atletico Madrid, has a grade-three sprain of his internal lateral ligament and a partial injury to his anterior cruciate ligament.
They did not say how long the defender is expected to be sidelined, but similar injuries tend to require months of recovery time. Fati is facing four months out.
The Catalan club’s misery at suffering another LaLiga defeat at the hands of Atletico on Saturday was made worse by the injuries suffered to the pair in their 1-0 reverse, with both players expected to be out for several months.
A win for Barca on Tuesday will secure a place in the knock-out stages for them as they already sit eight points ahead of their opponents on the night with three games still to play.
They have three wins from three in the Champions League this season, with wins over Ferencvaros, Juventus and Dynamo Kiev.