“He’s fine, but it was a big hit,” said Ernesto Valverde about Lionel Messi’s collision with Chris Smalling. Photo: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

BARCELONA – Lionel Messi could be among a number of players rested by Barcelona on Saturday, as Ernesto Valverde keeps one eye on their Champions League second leg against Manchester United. 

Valverde said on Friday that Messi may be spared the trip to Huesca, who sit bottom of La Liga, after a collision with United’s Chris Smalling on Wednesday left the Argentinian with a bruised nose and cheek. 

“It’s possible,” said Valverde, when asked about the chance of Messi sitting out this weekend. 

“He’s fine, but it was a big hit. He was affected the day after and during the match, it was like being hit by a truck.

“We will analyse him later, but it is a possibility.” 

Luke Shaw’s own goal meant Barca took a 1-0 victory away from Old Trafford, and they can afford to rotate ahead of the return, given they sit 11 points clear at the top of La Liga. 

Kevin Prince-Boateng and Jeison Murillo, who have hardly featured since joining in January, could be given rare outings, while Ousmane Dembele is likely to make his first appearance in a month after recovering from a hamstring injury. 

“There will be changes tomorrow, because the calendar is very congested,” Valverde said. 

“Another intense match is waiting for us tomorrow and then again on Tuesday, so we will make changes.” 

If Dembele comes through the game against Huesca unscathed, the Frenchman could be in line to start against United at Camp Nou. 

“Tomorrow’s game is important for Dembele, but not because of United, because of tomorrow,” Valverde said. 

“We must make an effort to focus on the three points because we need them.

“We can’t forget that we need 10 points to be champions, no matter how much we think that we might be there already. 

“We are not far away. We have to win three games and draw another, and that has to start tomorrow.”

AFP