'It's looking difficult' – Messi set to miss Barcelona's La Liga opener with calf strain

The Argentine missed Saturday’s friendly against Napoli and Friday’s game against Athletic may come too soon

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde believes it is “difficult” to see Lionel Messi returning from injury for his side’s La Liga opener against Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Messi, 32, missed Barcelona’s trip to the United States, where they claimed two wins over Napoli, due to a calf strain.

The forward appears set to miss his team’s league opener at Bilbao, with Valverde saying it was hard to see the star returning for the clash.

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“He’s in the recovery process and I don’t know if he will be ready for the start of La Liga,” he told a news conference after a 4-0 win over Napoli in Michigan on Saturday.

“It’s looking difficult.”

Should Messi miss the clash against Athletic, he will look towards an August 25 match against Real Betis to potentially make his season debut. 

Despite Messi’s absence, Barca produced a strong performance in their final pre-season friendly against Napoli.

Antoine Griezmann scored his first goal for the club, Luis Suarez netted a brace and Ousmane Dembele was also on the scoresheet in a comfortable win.

Valverde was pleased to see Griezmann, who arrived from Atletico Madrid for €120 million in July, get off the mark for Barca.

“Goalscorers are always boosted by the chances they get, by goals… it’s good for them to have a good relationship with the goal,” Valverde said of the France star.

“He had clear chances to score earlier, too. I am happy that all the forwards scored, including him, above all because he gives us a lot in attack with his movement.

“It’s positive to see how he’s playing.”

Despite Griezmann’s goal, losing Messi for any amount of time would be a major blow for Barcelona after the Argentine put together another brilliant individual campaign in 2018-19.

Messi scored an incredible 51 goals in all competitions last season, helping Barcelona to a second consecutive La Liga title. 

Barcelona did suffer frustration in the Copa del Rey, losing to Valencia in the final, and they were also shockingly eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final after defeating the Reds 3-0 in the first leg. 

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