Messi vs the Copa del Rey
Barcelona forward Leo Messi celebrates after scoring the 3-0 during the UEFA Champions League first leg semifinal match between Barcelona and Liverpool in Barcelona, Spain, May 1, 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/Alberto Estevez
By Miquel Muñoz
Barcelona, May 23 (efe-epa).- Barcelona has the opportunity to seal its second domestic double with a win against Valencia but the clash comes an inopportune moment for the Catalan side's captain Lionel Messi as it is sandwiched neatly between the club's atrocious exit from the Champions League and the upcoming Copa America, for which he will don the blue and white of Argentina.
The superstar made a promise to fans back in August to give everything for the UEFA Champions League trophy but on May 7 he struck a sullen figure coming off the pitch in Liverpool after the team blew a 3-0 aggregate lead in the second leg of the semi-finals when Liverpool staged one of the greatest upsets in the competition's history, netting four goals in front of an ecstatic Anfield crowd.
But Argentina's coach Lionel Scaloni soon made it clear there was little for the number 10 to sulk.
"It was a big blow, but now he has to get back on form for what's ahead," he said.
Scaloni had already named Messi in the national squad for the competition back in March.
Messi made a start with Barcelona in the last La Liga game by putting two past Eibar a minute apart to secure a 2-2 draw away from home.
And now he will be fully focused on the game on Saturday at the Benito Villamarín, Real Betis' usual stomping ground, where the Copa del Rey final will play out.
But not all Barcelona players will be available for the duel. Uruguay's Luis Suárez, Messi's strike partner, will miss the final having undergone knee surgery in the hope he will be able to make a return to the national team in time for the Copa America.
Another forward, Frenchman Ousmane Dembélé will also miss out as he remains sidelined with a femoral biceps injury he suffered during an away tie with Celta Vigo the weekend before the miserable outing in Liverpool.
And neither is muscle injury-plagued Philippe Coutinho's participation in the final guaranteed, meaning Messi could find himself relying on the support of second-choice players such as Malcom. EFE