La Liga 2019/20: Why Barcelona shouldn't risk starting Messi against Real Betis
FC Barcelona, the reigning champions of La Liga, started their title defence in a disappointing fashion. The Blaugranas lost to Athletic Bilbao, thanks to an incredible acrobatic strike from the evergreen Aritz Aduriz in what was a battle of attrition.
His moment of brilliance at the 89th minute decided the game at San Mames, a tough away ground for any side.
Lack of jirst-team options in attack
WIhat was already an awful week for the Cules, worsened further wihen Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele sustained serious injuries. As per club reports, Dembele will be out till September and Suarez's return is unspecified.
Having sold off Malcolm to Zenit Saint Petersburg and loaning out Philippe Coutinho to Bayern Munich for a year, the Catalans have pushed themselves into the brink in terms of attacking options.
With the arrival of Antoine Griezmann, many thought it might cause selection headaches for the manager, Ernesto Valverde. But now the tables have turned, and Valverde is short of quality options up front. Messi recently returned to training from his injury sabbatical and has been declared match-fit by the doctors in Barcelona.
The Messi situation
It is a no-brainer that Messi is a quintessential part of the Barcelona squad. His fitness, though, will decline inexorably, and injuries will recur as he is entering the twilight of his career. The Barca management needs to take care of their star man and manage his minutes properly.
They are way better with the Argentine but should consider factors like these before risking him in the match vs Real Betis. Starting him might lead to a relapse of the injury he picked up before the US tour.
They miss him when he doesn't play, but that doesn't mean the other players cannot step up. There are plenty of other gifted players in the Blaugrana roster, that can help ease the club through this injury pronged stage.
Antonie Greizmann must be desperate to get on the scoreboard for his new club. La Masia graduate, Rafinha after his excellent performance vs Athletic Bilbao, will be raging to go again to prove why the club should keep him.
Carles Perez impressed during the pre-season and has rejected many offers from top clubs to stay at Barca. Abel Ruiz is due for a promotion. Jewel of the Barca academy, Ansu Fati trained with the first team on Wednesday. At just 16, he is the highest-earning Masia graduate currently.
- ter Stegen, Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, Busquets, de Jong, Arthur, Rakitic, Griezmann, Rafinha (4-4-2)
- ter Stegan, Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, Busquets, de Jong, Rakitic, Perez, Griezmann, Rafinha (4-3-3)
- ter Stegan, Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, Busquets, de Jong, Alenya, Rakitic, Griezmann, Rafinha (4-4-2)
Although the injuries are concerning, it is way too early in the season to press the panic button.
It has only been one matchday in La Liga, and there are still 37 match-days to go. In the next month, there are many crucial fixtures, including the UCL group stage matchups. Rushing Messi may result in him being sidelined for prolonged periods, thereby making him miss the vital part of the campaign.
With the right midfield, a tight defence and hopefully Griezmann wearing his shooting boots, Barcelona can expect to sail through their first home game of the season without risking Messi as a starter. If the going gets tough, the magician can always step in.