x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Barca give Messi time to prepare for Brazil

Lionel Messi gets the go-ahead to miss Barcelona's opening game of the Primera Liga season in order to prepare for Argentina's crunch World Cup qualifier against Brazil.

Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona's match with Sporting Gijon.
Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona's match with Sporting Gijon.

Coach Pep Guardiola has given Lionel Messi the go-ahead to miss Barcelona's opening game of the Primera Liga season in order to prepare for Argentina's crunch World Cup qualifier against Brazil. Argentina, fourth in their qualifying group, face leaders and arch-rivals Brazil in Rosario on September 5 - just five days after Barca start the defence of their Spanish league title against Sporting Gijon.

That game against Sporting had been pushed back to the Monday because of Barca's commitments in the European Super Cup final against Shakhtar Donetsk on the previous Friday, and meant Messi would have been late in joining up with the Argentina squad. Guardiola has given his blessing for Messi to sit out the Sporting game, saying: "To say that he doesn't want to play for Barca is tendentious. "He wants to play with Barca. But the Super Cup is on Friday and the league encounter is on the Monday.

"I've given him my permission to go with his national team. The footballer always pays in these cases when it's the fault of the fixture list." Messi did not take part in the opening leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Bilbao last night either, because Guardiola decided not to include him in his squad following injury. Messi complained of a thigh problem while with Argentina earlier this week - and although it is not deemed a serious injury, Guardiola is preferring not to take any risks, saying: "There are many games ahead."

In France, two headers by Marouane Chamakh led champions Bordeaux to a 3-2 win at Sochaux in Ligue 1 on Saturday. The unsettled Morocco striker, who is being chased by several English Premier League sides, most notably Arsenal, and has repeatedly voiced his desire to leave the Stade Chaban Delmas, also netted in a 4-1 opening victory over Racing Lens last weekend. Lyon, who had started the season with a 2-2 draw at Le Mans, bounced back with a 1-0 home win over Valenciennes thanks to a goal from new signing, French international striker Bafetimbi Gomis.

* With agencies