Valverde uses Messi sparingly

07 February 2019 04:28:28 EST

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has vowed to remain cautious with superstar Lionel Messi, who recently sustained a slight thigh injury.

Messi was injured during the 2-2 draw with Valencia at the weekend, a game which saw the Argentinian ace score in a ninth consecutive match in all competitions.

As a coach you need to make tough decisions like this, but it must benefit the player and the team.

Ernesto Valverde

However, he was only utilised as a substitute on Wednesday evening, as Barca drew 1-1 against Real Madrid in the Camp Nou in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie.

Afterwards, Valverde told Marca: "He was fine, but we cannot take risks with this type of injury.

"He was not fully fit, there were certain discomforts he had and we had to make a decision that was best for everyone.

"As a coach you need to make tough decisions like this, but it must benefit the player and the team, taking a lot of issues into account.

"He is fine; we know he is not at full fitness, but we know that he could have been decisive in the closing stages."

Barca are back in La Liga action on Sunday, when they face a tricky test away to Athletic Bilbao, with the Catalans currently holding a six-point advantage at the top of the table.

Barcelona are priced at 1/5000 to be crowned Spanish champions this season, while they are 1212/1 to triumph in the Champions League - having been drawn to face Lyon in the last-16 of the competition.

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