La Liga preview: Barcelona mull resting Lionel Messi during April’s ‘brutal schedule’
Lionel Messi has started every Barcelona game in 2017 and will do so once more when Valencia visit the Camp Nou on Sunday.
Barcelona: Barcelona boss Luis Enrique suggested Lionel Messi will have to be rested for some of an April packed with huge clashes, but that even the Catalan giants would struggle without the "best player in the world".
Messi has started every Barca game in 2017 and will do so once more when Valencia visit the Camp Nou on Sunday. However, the Spanish champions face 10 games in April after a two-week international break, including a two-legged Champions League quarter-final against Juventus and crucial La Liga clashes against Sevilla and Real Madrid.
"To do without the best player in the world is difficult, but we have thought about resting him," said Enrique on Saturday. Barca trail Madrid at the top of La Liga by two points, but have also played a game more than their eternal rivals.
"La Liga will be decided in the last few games. The most decisive part of the calendar is still to come," added Enrique. "It is a brutal schedule for those us in European competition and those at the bottom are going to fight too."
Barca's route to a potential second treble in three seasons under Enrique before he leaves at the end of the campaign wasn't made any easier by a pairing with Juventus in Friday's Champions League draw.
Enrique's men beat the Italian champions 3-1 in the final two years ago to complete the treble. And despite a significant turnover in personnel for Juventus in the intervening two years, he expects a "frightening" challenge.
"We have the final in Berlin fresh in our minds. They have changed players, but they are a difficult and frightening opponent of the standard you expect in the quarter-finals of the Champions League."
Off the field, tying down Messi's long-term future remains Barca's priority with just over a year to run on the Argentine's contract.
However, club captain Andres Iniesta's deal is also due to run out in 2018. Iniesta said this week his intention was to sign a new deal but that he wouldn't hang around if his role within the squad deteriorated.
And Enrique hopes Iniesta, 32, decides to stay rather than following former teammate Xavi Hernandez's example in playing out his twilight years in Qatar.
"There are two options when you get to the last few years," added Enrique. "One is to stay with the club you always have been with, which is what I want. The other is to go like Xavi, which I also understand."
Barcelona want to increase Camp Nou's capacity to 110,000 while also refurbishing its surrounding area, which includes a pavilion for the club's other sports, the museum and stores.
Espanyol had won just once in seven games this season but they hung on grimly in five minutes of added time to take all three points.
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