Valverde to unleash rested Messi amid planned rotations
Sep 14 2018 - 12:20
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde admits it is a boost that Lionel Messi was able to rest during the international break.
The forward declared himself unavailable for Argentina's friendly matches against Guatemala and Colombia, which took place in the United States during the past week.
It means Messi will have had close to two weeks off between the 8-2 thrashing of Huesca and Saturday's game against Real Sociedad at Anoeta, where Barca have won only once in their previous eight visits.
Valverde is prepared to rotate his squad given Barca have five matches in 15 days, but he is glad to have his number 10 well-rested.
"Those players [who didn't play in the international break] didn't have that wear," he told a news conference. "They've had more time to train, to rest.
"There's that tiring experience of travelling, a lot of air miles, other players have had to do that, so generally it's better for us, I won't deny that.
"We always expect the best from Messi, as we do from any player, regardless of whether there's a midweek game or not. We knew when players had to travel for their national teams and there are away games immediately afterwards, of course it's a huge advantage to have him rested for the last week.
"We have another game in just three days' time. Some of the players have been playing with small fitness issues so, yes, I might make some changes."
Valverde suggested Arthur and Arturo Vidal are likely to become more involved in the coming weeks, although the Brazil midfielder is not in the squad to face Sociedad.
"Yes, I've got to find room for them all and hopefully when they play we'll win our games," Valverde said of the midfield duo. "We have a lot of competition for places.
"Vidal had to do a lot of travelling this week but we have a lot of hopes pinned on them. Perhaps this isn't the best week for them. They've had some long trips."
Valverde went on to praise the commitment levels of Ousmane Dembele, who endured a tough first season with injury problems.
"He's the same player. He's great going forward, great at finding space, he scores goals. We also want consistency from him," said Valverde.
"He's working very hard in training but essentially he is the same player. There will be big games when we need him to rise to the occasion, but that's his job."