Messi set to start in Catalan derby against Girona

Lionel Messi would be restored to Barcelona’s starting line-up in Sunday’s Catalan derby against Girona according to manager Ernesto Valverde.

Messi, 31, failed to travel with the squad in the midweek loss to Sevilla in their Copa del Rey quarterfinal first leg.

The Argentine’s absence raised a lot of eyebrows considering he made a cameo appearance in last week’s La Liga win over Leganes at Camp Nou.

“It was a decision based on the coach’s criteria, who is the person who knows his players best,”

Valverde said in a news conference via ESPN on Saturday when asked why he had not started top scorer Messi in either of the last two matches. “I have to make those decisions.

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“No one else has the data I have on my players. I do what is best for the player, for the team and for the club.”

Valverde has challenged Malcom to earn a regular spot in the team with the Brazilian linked with a move away from Nou Camp.

“We want him to have that continuity [of playing regularly] and to be a player that intimidates the opposition in the final third,” he said.

“There are other players playing [in his position] but when he does play he has to try and win his place in the team so that it can’t be taken away from him.”

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