Barcelona will not take any risks with Messi in LaLiga opener - Valverde

By Sports Desk August 15, 2019

Ernesto Valverde says he will not risk Lionel Messi for Barcelona's LaLiga opener.

Messi has not featured in pre-season as he continues to recover from a calf injury.

Frenkie de Jong and Jean-Clair Todibo have returned to training ahead of the new season, but Messi was not with his team-mates on Thursday having worked separately with the fitness coach earlier in the week.

Defending champions Barca go to Valverde's former club Athletic Bilbao on Friday, though captain Messi may sit the game out as he builds his fitness.

"We're not going to take risks with players and certainly not with him," Valverde told a news conference.

"He's not trained with the team since they came back and it's different to train in isolation.

"We'll wait a little to see how his recovery goes, it's going well I understand, but we have to wait and see."

Despite winning back-to-back titles since leaving Athletic for Barca two years ago, Valverde's comparatively poor European record, coupled with his style of play, has drawn criticism.

"Everybody has this target, we want the best we can," Valverde said on his ambitions for the 2019-20 campaign. "In the big games you want to raise your level but you're always thinking about playing better.

"The question is how. Do you want me to look like George Clooney? That's difficult. The most beautiful football is difficult too, but we try to be the best team with the best football and we are steadily improving.

"We had some excellent games last season, some not so good, but if I look back over my two years we've lost four league games, I think, mostly when we've already won the title, so I think we're doing a lot of things right."

Valverde accepted it will be a difficult occasion facing his old club Athletic, where he spent four years in charge.

"It's my home and San Mames is special for me," Valverde said. "Personally it's hard to go and play there, I like these games to be over as quick as possible.

"I know how the fans get behind them and how they put you under a lot of pressure. But you can put a lot of pressure on yourself as well."

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