For the biggest moments, there is always Lionel Messi. The 31-year-old Argentine has been the key to Barcelona’s success ever since he made his debut, but more and more this season he has been rested.
Wednesday won’t be one of those days, as Barcelona faces Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.
“I’ve rested Messi more than usual but this has been a month with two Champions League clashes, and twice we had to play three games in a week,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We wanted to clinch the Spanish league title, but at the same time we also wanted to make sure he was prepared for this tie. I think I’ve probably got the balance right.”
A few days ago, Messi won the Spanish league trophy for the 10th time in his 15 seasons with the Catalan club. He scored the decisive goal — yet another one — that allowed the team to clinch its eighth league title in 11 seasons.
He has also helped the team advance to a fifth straight Copa del Rey final, and reach the Champions League semifinals for the first time in four seasons.
“Messi is the centerpiece of our success,” Valverde said after Barcelona won the league. “Obviously, since he arrived the club has won numerous titles. If there’s a player above everyone else, it’s him. He sets our style and his level of competitiveness improves everyone.”
Barcelona knows it will need the best of Messi when it plays Liverpool at the Camp Nou, so the team has worked as hard as ever to manage his playing time and make sure he will be in top form at the Camp Nou.