Barcelona rest Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong for Champions League game at Dynamo Kiev

Manager Koeman says the duo need a rest after 'crazy' playing schedule

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after missing a goal opportunity during the Spanish League football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on November 21, 2020. / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS
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Barcelona are resting Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong for their Champions League game at Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday.

Despite their recent La Liga troubles, Barca currently sit top of Group G – three points ahead of second-placed Juventus and eight clear of  bottom two Kiev and Ferencvaros –and can secure a spot in the knockout stage for the 17th straight season by winning in the Ukraine.

Messi has played in every match so far this season after going through a turbulent summer where he attempted to leave the club he has spent his entire career.

De Jong had also played in every match with both having just played for their respective national teams, Argentina and the Netherlands.

“Neither Leo nor Frenkie are traveling,” Koeman said on Monday. “They need some rest. With nine points in our group, we are in a comfortable situation and we have to keep them fresh.

“In Leo's case you also have trips to South America [to play with Argentina]. We have to protect our players. It's impossible for them to play every match and always be at their best. Everyone knows that, but we have to keep playing several matches.

It's time for UEFA, FIFA to think about what they are doing to footballers, the amount of games they need to play is crazy."

Barcelona's perfect campaign in the Champions League has been the only good thing for the club recently. It doesn’t have a president in charge, it is dealing with financial difficulties, several of its players are injured and it has struggled in the Spanish league.

They are also coming off a loss to Atletico Madrid that left the Catalonians 12th in the Spanish table after eight matches.

“We can’t be happy with our results, but we need to stay motivated,” Koeman said. “We have another match tomorrow [Tuesday] and we are one step away from advancing, so we have to take advantage of this opportunity.”


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The club is being led by a managing committee since former president Josep Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned after the fallout from the Messi crisis. The club also has been in the middle of difficult negotiations with players to adjust their salaries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In the match against Atletico, Barcelona also lost two players because of injuries – Sergi Roberto with a muscle injury and Gerard Pique with a serious knee injury.

“[Pique] represents a significant absence,” Koeman said. “He has been here for several years and has great personality. It’s sad for the team and for the club. It’s tough, but we have to accept it and try to solve the problem.

"Look at the example of Sergi Roberto, the reason he got injured was because of playing too many games. Everybody knows this but still we need to continue to play this number of games, it's incredible."

Koeman said he may use a player from the “B” team to make up for the shortage in central defenders. He could use 21-year-old Oscar Mingueza to play alongside Clement Lenglet, as Ronald Araújo is returning from an injury. De Jong has played as a central defender and is an option for Koeman in future matches.

“We can’t take any risks because we have very few central defenders,” he said.

Lenglet said he would be willing to play on the right side if needed. “It’s not my usual position, it’s a bit different, but I can do it to try to help the club,” he said.

Barcelona has won its Champions League group every season since 2007-08, and it has not lost a group match since the 2016-17 season. Dynamo Kyiv is making its first group appearance since that 2016-17 season.