Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has left star player Lionel Messi out of the squad to face Dynamo Kyiv in the Uefa Champions League on Tuesday night, insisting that it is “impossible to keep the players fit” with the current packed schedule.
The Spanish giants travel to Ukraine on top of Group G with a perfect nine points after three games, three points ahead of second-placed Juventus, but they are struggling in La Liga in 12th spot after losing 1-0 to Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Messi, along with midfielder Frenkie de Jong, are rested as Barca look well-placed to reach the knockout stage despite fresh injury concerns after the Madrid defeat as the club will be without Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto due to injuries.
“We’ve decided not to take Leo or Frenkie because our situation in the Champions League is quite comfortable,” Koeman told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s game.
Messi, 33, has played every Barca match so far this season and also played the full 90 minutes for Argentina in four matches over October and November.
De Jong has also played every match for the Catalan giants as well as five international fixtures for the Netherlands in the same period.
“The players need a break and we think it’s time for them to rest … Both have played almost every minute and come from playing with their national teams,” added Koeman.
“Sometimes, you have to protect your players because the calendar is incredible.”
Antoine Griezmann is expected to lead the attack while Clement Lenglet will lead the defence in the absence of Pique.
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi