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Valverde: Lionel Messi will only play for Barcelona if 100% fit

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Ernesto Valverde announced that he will only consider playing Lionel Messi in Sunday’s La Liga match between Barcelona and Real Betis if he’s 100% fit.

Messi’s had a rough summer upon suffering more Copa America heartbreak with Argentina. Then, in his very first training session back with Valverde and Barcelona, he sustained a calf injury and missed all of pre-season.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner also missed out on last week’s 1-0 La Liga defeat to Athletic Bilbao.

However, Messi made a welcome return to training on Wednesday and is working hard to recover his fitness. Reports in Spain had suggested earlier this week that he could feature in Sunday’s meeting with Betis.

Speaking in his post-match conference, though, Valverde revealed he’s still unsure of playing Messi for Barcelona.

“If he is not 100 per cent, he will not play,” said Valverde, according to France24.

“We have to wait for training, I can’t predict anything. I don’t know if we can count on him, or not, or to what extent.”

Should the Blaugrana manager deem Mess fit to play, then he could line-up alongside Antoine Griezmann in the attack.

The France international, of course, has his own problems to deal with in light of a low-key La Liga debut. He struggled to make an impact, and was poor in the second-half at Athletic.

With Luis Suarez out for this weekend, however, Griezmann will need to rediscover his A-game sooner rather than later.

“He is settling in more and more every day,” Valverde said on Griezmann.

“What we want is for him to be involved a lot in the game. We know if he is involved, if he is busy and gets on the ball, he can be decisive.

“The other day against Athletic at San Mames, he was not as involved as we would have liked but it is also up to us to help him, to allow our strikers to participate more.

“We have to make our possession more productive, we have to work hard to bring them into play because we know they can be dangerous. It is the same for Antoine.”

The Barcelona and Betis match will take place at Camp Nou, with kick-off set for 21:00 (CET).