Lionel Messi will be unavailable for the opening La Liga fixture of 2019-20, when Barcelona will take on Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.
Barcelona will be looking to begin the defence of their La Liga crown on a positive note, as they get set to take on Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Friday, in a match that will be the curtain raiser of the 2019-20 La Liga season. Manager Ernesto Valverde though, will be without Lionel Messi as the league campaign gets underway.
The Barcelona captain rejoined the first-team squad for pre-season training late after having been involved in the Copa America. Messi then picked up a calf injury, which has subsequently ruled him out of the game against Athletic Bilbao.
Speaking on Messi during his pre-match press conference (h/t Barca Blaugranes), Valverde said that he will not take any risks with the Barcelona talisman and will gradually ease him back into action.
“We are not going to take risks and less so with Leo. He hasn’t trained yet with the team and doing recovery work is not the same as working with the team. We will wait, but he is following a fairly good recovery process.”
The absence of Messi will be good news for Ousmane Dembele, who should form a part of the attacking trident for Barcelona. Luis Suarez should lead the line for the visitors, with Antoine Griezmann completing the front trio. Griezmann will have a role to play in the build-ups to the attacks, with Messi unavailable.
Like Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong will be turning out for Barcelona for the first time in a competitive setting, when they take on Athletic Bilbao. Giving de Jong company in the middle of the park, should be Sergio Busquets, who will sit in front of the defence, while Ivan Rakitic is likely to be the workhorse of the side.
At the back, another player is in line to make his Barcelona debut – Junior Firpo. But, the former Real Betis man will likely be a backup option on the bench, with Jordi Alba starting on the left side of the defence.
On the opposite flank, Nelson Semedo is expected to be deployed, with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet forming the central defensive partnership. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will take his place in the Barcelona goal, while Inaki Pena will be his backup, with Neto out with a wrist injury.