Julen Lopetegui isn’t dwelling on the prospect of facing Lionel Messi despite the Barcelona star’s incredible record against his Sevilla team.
Messi played his first 90-minute match of the season on Wednesday and crucially set-up Luis Suarez’s winner as Barcelona defeated Inter Milan 2-1. However, there are some doubts over his availability to face Lopetegui’s Sevilla on Sunday.
Having already suffered two serious injuries, Blaugrana legend Rivaldo suggested Messi should give the game a miss.
The Brazilian urged Barcelona to give the 32-year-old time to properly rest, and claimed too much game time could be risky.
Although head coach Ernesto Valverde will understandably be tempted to pick Messi given his stunning record against Sevilla. In exactly 35 games, the Argentine has bagged 36 goals down the years.
For Lopetegui, though, the focus lies on preparing his squad for a tricky night at Camp Nou.
“I want to focus on my own players,” the Sevilla boss told reporters in Saturday’s press conference.
“Barcelona are a great team and, if Messi is involved, they will be better because he can only improve the team.
“But we will try to give a great version of ourselves. We will go there with enthusiasm, desire and ambition. It’s a game that will demand the best from us.”
After losing two of their last three games, Sevilla have fallen from first to sixth-place in La Liga. However, they can re-enter the top-four spots by beating Barcelona in their own backyard.
“I hope for the best Barcelona,” added Lopetegui.
“They are at a great level and we are sure to see a great team, very good players and a very well-directed side. I have no doubt what we will find.
“Every game has to be played and we have to try to compete in the best way. The games have many moments and we have to know how to adapt and compete. That’s where we have to focus”.
The Barcelona and Sevilla match starts at 21:00 (CET) on Sunday.