Ernesto Valverde insists Barcelona will not be “taking risks” over Lionel Messi’s fitness as he considers his options to face Athletic Bilbao.
Head coach Ernesto Valverde has revealed captain Lionel Messi will be handed a late fitness test ahead of Sunday’s La Liga clash at Athletic Bilbao (Bilbao 19/5, Draw 3/1, Barcelona 4/6 – Match Betting).
Argentina international Messi was named on the bench for Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg as he was struggling with an unspecified injury.
The 31-year-old did come on in the second half in place of Philippe Coutinho and the Catalans hoped that cameo appearance would stand their skipper in good stead for Sunday’s trip to the San Mames.
However, Valverde has revealed Messi, who has scored 21 La Liga goals this season to sit top of the scoring charts, is still being affected by the niggling issue and will be given as much time as possible to prove his fitness.
“We didn’t want to take risks during the Copa del Rey match and tomorrow we face a similar situation,” he said at a press conference.
Barcelona will be looking to move eight points clear at the summit with a win and they arrive in Bilbao on a 10-game unbeaten league run, with their last away loss in the top flight coming back in September.
Bilbao’s four-game unbeaten run was ended with a 2-1 loss to Real Sociedad last time out but the hosts will be optimistic of getting something against the table-toppers, having won their last two games at the San Mames.
Odds subject to change.