Lionel Messi Back from Suspension as Barcelona In Copa Del Rey, Face Rayo Vallecano
Lionel Messi is back in the Barcelona squad to face Rayo Vallecano’s second-division club in Wednesday’s Copa del Rey. Messi has not played this season in the Copa del Rey, but coach Ronald Koeman is expected to use him after missing two matches because of a suspension in the round-of-16 game. Due to an unspecified minor fitness problem, Messi had been resting before that.
Koeman said Tuesday, “He’s fresh and isn’t feeling any ailments,” “To win things we need Messi to be in good shape and playing at the level that he can play. He is excited to play. He is the kind of player who wants to play in every match. We will look at our opponent and tomorrow we will know exactly who will be in the starting 11.”
In the Spanish Super Cup final on January 17, Messi got a two-match suspension for hitting an opponent away from the ball late in the teams’ 3-2 defeat to Athletic Bilbao.
He did not play against Cornell last week in the 32nd round of the Copa del Rey, or against Elche on Sunday in the Spanish league. Both matches were claimed 2-0 by Barcelona.
The Catalan club is 10 points behind Spanish league leader Atletico Madrid and is three points behind Real Madrid’s second place finish in the second half of the season. There’s a game in hand for Atletico.
Despite the defeat to Athletic in the Spanish Super Cup, Barcelona have performed well this year. Four consecutive league matches have been won, all away from home. In nine consecutive league games, the Catalan club are unbeaten.
Rayo is coming off a defeat to Majorca, but in all competitions he had won six in a row before. In the second-division standings, it sits fourth, in a decent position to win promotion.
Due to thigh pain, Barcelona defender Sergio Dest will not play on Wednesday, the club said.
The Copa del Rey’s round of 16 is now played in one-game matchups.
“The Cup is a shorter tournament, with fewer games, and we’re playing to win it,” Koeman said. “With this winning mentality, I want to see my team just as it has shown so far.”