Messi named among Barcelona subs for Betis clash

By Peter Hanson 7 November 2020
Messi named among Barcelona subs for Betis clash

Lionel Messi was named among Barcelona's substitutes for Saturday's LaLiga contest against Real Betis.

The absence of the captain from Ronald Koeman's starting XI at Camp Nou was a peculiar one given Barca have failed to win their past four matches in Spain's top flight, although reports in Spain suggest he is not being risked due to a slight ankle problem.

Messi had previously started every game in LaLiga and the Champions League under Koeman, who named Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati in his starting line-up.

Messi has regularly found himself in the spotlight since failing to engineer a move away from Barca in the past transfer window, particularly given he is yet to score from open play or provide an assist in LaLiga this term - though he has attempted more shots (28) than any other player in the competition.

On Friday, Koeman defended Messi against claims the Argentine was not working hard enough for the team following viral footage from Barca's midweek win over Dynamo Kiev, which showed him failing to press the opposition in second-half injury time. 

In that game, Messi had more shots (six) and created more chances (four) than any other player in the match, but he also lost possession more frequently than anyone else (20 times) without once winning it back.

"I didn't seem him [walking] and I'm not interested in this because I don't see him walking," Koeman said. "If you want to start a controversy around this point, it's your problem.

"Messi is mentally good, enjoying this sport. He's a winner and sometimes you go through moments when the ball doesn't go in, but he looks really focused.

"I think Messi still has so many qualities. He's very important in our game."

Last weekend's 1-1 draw at 10-man Deportivo Alaves saw Barca equal their lowest tally of points through six games in LaLiga.

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