Valverde says Messi 'fine' just being rested in Barca's draw with Juve

Valverde says Messi 'fine' just being rested in Barca's draw with Juve
From ESPN - November 22, 2017

Ernesto Valverde explained he left Lionel Messi on the bench against Juventus to give him a breather as Barcelona booked their place in the Champions League knockout rounds on Wednesday.

Messi came on in the second half as Barca played out a goalless draw with Juve in Turin, securing their place in the round of 16 as group winners with one game to spare.

The decision to name Messi as a substitute had come as a surprise in the build-up to kickoff, given the Argentine had previously started each of Barca's 16 La Liga and Champions League games this season.

However, Valverde revealed that the aim was to rest the forward's legs, perhaps with Sunday's top-of-the-table clash against Valencia in the back of his mind.

"Messi's fine," the coach said when asked if there was any other reason for the call. "It was a difficult decision. He feels a great deal of responsibility within the club and the team.

"But he has played a lot of games and eventually he had to have a to rest. We thought it would be a tight game and then it would open up. The idea was he could come on in the second half, with the game more open. That was the decision."

Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri said it was strange to see Messi among the substitutes and admitted to being worried when the forward was brought on in the 55th minute.

"I have been facing him since 2010," Allegri said. "It's been 13 games and this is the first time that I have seen Messi sat on a bench.

"I worried a little when I saw he was coming on, but my lads did a good job keeping him quiet."

Paulo Dybala had the best chance to win the game, drawing a smart save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen late on, but Valverde felt Barca were the better side, without testing Gianluigi Buffon.

"We came here with the intention of winning the game," he said. "We played with a lot of personality because Juve press a lot here.


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