first_imgLionel Messi will miss Barcelona’s La Liga opener against Athletic Bilbao on Friday after head coach Ernesto Valverde declared he would not take any risks with the star attacker.The Argentine trained separately from his team-mates on Wednesday as he continues his recovery from a calf injury suffered in training last week.Messi’s participation in the Copa America meant he wasn’t cited to return to training until early August, but his pre-season preparations were quickly scuppered.The captain missed Barca’s US tour and the two friendlies against Napoli last week, and the club have confirmed he is not in the squad for their match Friday against Valverde’s old club.At an earlier news conference, Valverde declared he is not prepared to take any chances with his talisman as the team begin their defence of the La Liga title they won in May.Valverde said they would wait until training to decide, but declared it unlikely at the time that Messi would be available.“We won’t take any risk with any player, much less if he is Messi,” said Barca head coach. “We will see how he arrives to the training session but he hasn’t worked or played with the team.“Doing an individual recovery is not the same as playing a game, his recovery process is good but we must wait until the training session.”Valverde’s Barca open the season having captured back-to-back La Liga crowns since the coach took over after departing Athletic two years ago.However, Champions League failures in both seasons, during which Barca surrendered three-goal first leg advantages to Roma and Liverpool respectively, has seen Valverde come in for criticism.Responding to questions over his style of play, Valverde pointed to his overall results and domestic silverware to show Barca are doing more right than wrong under his leadership.“Everybody has this target, we want the best we can,” Valverde said. “In the big games you want to raise your level but you’re always thinking about playing better.“The question is how. Do you want me to look like George Clooney? That’s difficult. The most beautiful football is difficult too, but we try to be the best team with the best football and we are steadily improving.“We had some excellent games last season, some not so good, but if I look back over my two years we’ve lost four league games, I think, mostly when we’ve already won the title, so I think we’re doing a lot of things right.”last_img

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