Speculation over whether or not Lionel Messi will play in Wednesday’s Copa del Rey Clasico at Camp Nou will not have any impact upon Real Madrid’s preparations, according to head coach Santiago Solari.
Messi hauled Barcelona to a 2-2 draw at home to Valencia on Saturday, netting both goals for Ernesto Valverde’s men.
But the Argentina superstar pulled up with apparent thigh discomfort and, although he completed the 90 minutes, Valverde confirmed he had “a small problem” and would face tests ahead of the first leg of an eagerly anticipated semi-final showdown.
“It is always good for football to have the best players playing all the games. It is a fact,” Solari said at a pre-match news conference.
When pressed on whether Messi’s potential absence altered his thinking for a first Clasico at the helm, he responded: “Absolutely not.”
Barca’s emphatic 5-1 win over Madrid in LaLiga earlier this season paved the way for Solari to take his current role, leading as it did to Julen Lopetegui’s sacking.
“A Clasico is a game between two clubs with a big rivalry,” Solari said.
“It means to me River v Boca, Inter v Milan, Penarol v Nacional, San Lorenzo v Huracan and of course, it means Real Madrid v Barcelona.”
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) February 5, 2019
Attempts to concoct a psychological edge or a conspiratorial angle are never far from the surface in this famous fixture and it has not gone unnoticed in Madrid that LaLiga’s schedule has granted Barcelona an extra day’s rest ahead of each leg of the semi-final.
“It [the fixture calendar] is curious but we don’t make it and we have to go out and play to our best,” Solari said, before slightly mischievously adding: “I hope that it isn’t deliberate.”
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