Ernesto Valverde insists Lionel Messi was fit enough to play as Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw with Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. Messi has been struggling with a thigh injury that resulted in him starting on the bench as Barca fought out a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey in midweek.
The Argentina ace was back in the starting line up yesterday, but did not appear to be his usual self as the La Liga leaders were left frustrated at San Mames.
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Even so, Valverde has defended his decision to put Messi back in, insisting the player was fully fit and ready to start “Messi is fine and he has played at 100 per cent,” Valverde told reporters after the game. “He has had some difficulties, because we had them as a collective, but when he plays it is because is absolutely convinced everything is fine.”
Arturo Vidal and Philippe Coutinho also failed to shine, forcing Valverde to defend them. “It’s like everything else when you get a draw that you think that you should have won,” Valverde added. “It is a matter for the whole team and people always point to a player because he failed a pass or some situation. It is true that sometimes they can be more successful.”