Lionel Messi was named among the substitutes for Barcelona’s LaLiga trip to Villarreal on Tuesday.
Barca club captain Messi was granted a rest by head coach Ernesto Valverde ahead of key fixtures against Atletico Madrid and Manchester United, with Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic also kept out of the starting XI.
Malcom was given the chance to deputise for the Argentina star, the Brazilian named in the line-up for the just the second time in LaLiga.
Arturo Vidal was chosen in the place of Rakitic in midfield, while Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto were named in defence as Pique and Nelson Semedo dropped out.
During a pre-match news conference on Monday, Valverde suggested he would name Messi in his team despite second-place Atletico visiting Camp Nou on Saturday, four days before a trip to Old Trafford to face United in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.
“There’s no ideal setting to use a player like Leo sparingly,” said the Barca boss.
“We’re giving a lot of value to this game. There are people who have set their sights on the Champions League and Atletico, but this game is very important.
“It doesn’t escape me that our rivals are waiting for a slip-up to feed their hope of catching us. We should not give them that chance.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 2, 2019
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