Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has said Lionel Messi will have to be rested for some of an April packed with huge matches, but that even the Catalan giants would struggle without the “best player in the world”.
Messi has started every Barca game in 2017 and will do so once more when Valencia visit the Camp Nou on Sunday.
However, Barcelona face 10 games in April after a two-week international break, including a two-legged Uefa Champions League quarter-final against Juventus and crucial Primera Liga fixtures against Sevilla and Real Madrid.
“To do without the best player in the world is difficult, but we have thought about resting him,” Enrique said on Saturday.
Barca trail Madrid at the top of the Primera Liga by two points, but have also played a game more than their rivals.
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“La Liga will be decided in the last few games. The most decisive part of the calendar is still to come,” Enrique said.
“It is a brutal schedule for those us in European competition and those at the bottom are going to fight too.”
Barca’s route to a potential second treble in three seasons under Enrique before he leaves at the end of the campaign wasn’t made any easier by a pairing with Juventus in Friday’s Champions League draw.
Enrique’s men beat the Italian champions 3-1 in the final two years ago to complete the treble.
And despite a significant turnover in personnel for Juventus in the intervening two years, he expects a “frightening” challenge.
“We have the final in Berlin fresh in our minds,” Enrique said.
“They have changed players, but they are a difficult and frightening opponent of the standard you expect in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.”
Off the field, tying down Messi’s long-term future remains Barca’s priority with just over a year to run on the Argentine’s contract.
However, club captain Andres Iniesta’s deal is also due to run out in 2018.
Iniesta said this week his intention was to sign a new deal but that he wouldn’t hang around if his role within the squad deteriorated.
And Enrique hopes Iniesta, 32, decides to stay rather than following former teammate Xavi Hernandez’s example in playing out his twilight years in Qatar.
“There are two options when you get to the last few years,” Enrique said.
“One is to stay with the club you always have been with, which is what I want. The other is to go like Xavi, which I also understand.”
* Agence France-Presse
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