Madrid, Spain| THE INDEPENDENT | FC Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said on Monday that his side will be without Lionel Messi for Tuesday’s La Liga game at home to Eibar.
Messi has delayed his return to Barcelona from Argentina, and speaking to the press ahead of the game, Koeman said the striker was “with problems in his ankle and due to that he hasn’t been able to train and he isn’t in shape for tomorrow’s game, so we decided to give him longer holidays.”
“In theory he will be back after the Eibar game and our doctors say that a week without training should be enough,” added the coach.
Barca go into the game a week after Messi inspired them to a 3-0 win over Real Valladolid and there is no doubt he will be missed, although Koeman confirmed that winger Ousmane Dembele was working with the rest of the squad again after his muscle injury, while he also asked for more goals from Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho.
Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique remain out of action and it remains to be seen if Barca again use a three-man defense with the full-backs pushing forward, which worked well in Valladolid. Jordi Alba’s suspension may persuade Koeman to switch to a flat back four, given that Alba’s likely replacement Junior Firpo is less effective going forward.
Eibar have won away from home three times this season, but lose on-loan winger Bryan Gil through illness, with Anaitz Arbilla and Kevin Rodrigues also sidelined.
In his press conference, Eibar coach Jose Luis Mendilibar said he was pleased Messi would miss the game after he netted five times against them last season, but added that the Argentinian’s absence would “give more freedom” to other players.