Lionel Messi is not in the Barcelona squad for the first game of their LaLiga title defence.
Barca go to Athletic Bilbao on Friday to open the 2019-20 season but they will be without their inspirational captain.
Messi has not featured during pre-season due to a calf injury and he was not present in the open section of Barca’s training session on Thursday.
Ahead of the workout, former Athletic head coach Valverde had suggested Messi would not be able to take his place in the squad.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 15, 2019
“We’re not going to take risks with players and certainly not with him,” Valverde told a news conference ahead of his return to San Mames.
“He’s not trained with the team since they came back and it’s different to train in isolation. We’ll wait a little to see how his recovery goes, it’s going well I understand, but we have to wait and see.”
Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic are included in the travelling squad despite reports they could leave Barca as part of a deal with Paris Saint-Germain for the potential return of Neymar.
Antoine Griezmann is in line to make his league debut for Barcelona after joining from Atletico Madrid, with fellow new arrivals Frenkie de Jong and Junior Firpo also included, but midfielder Arthur misses out.
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