Valverde defends Messi rotation

Lionel Messi was absent for Barcelona's Copa del Rey reverse at Sevilla, but Ernesto Valverde had his reasons for resting his star man.

Lionel Messi (left) and Ernesto Valverde.   -  Getty Images

Ernesto Valverde has no regrets over his decision to rest Lionel Messi for Barcelona's Copa del Rey defeat at Sevilla.

Messi, who came off the bench to score in the 3-1 La Liga win over Leganes last Sunday, was not in the squad as Sevilla claimed a 2-0 victory in the quarterfinal first-leg clash.

With Valverde having left his star man out, the Barca coach came under fire but he defended his decision ahead of this weekend's trip to Catalan neighbour Girona in the league.

"These things are at the discretion of the coach, who is the one who knows the players best and knows how they are," he said.

"I can say little more. The data that I have of the players, nobody [else] has - only those of us inside [the club].

"I do what I think is best for us and the group. There is talk of rotations when we lose."

Valverde was asked about new signing Frenkie de Jong's talks with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola before the Ajax youngster opted for a switch to Barca that will be finalised ahead of the 2019-20 season.

The former Athletic Bilbao coach simply replied: "You cannot talk to a player who has a contract. It's not in my code. Everyone has their way of acting. I have nothing more to say."

While Barca has a two-goal deficit to overturn to keep its Copa del Rey hopes alive, the Camp Nou club boasts a five-point lead in La Liga, with Valverde – who acknowledged the league is a higher priority than the cup – anticipating a tough game at Estadi Montilivi.

"All matches have a high difficulty level," he said. "It's a derby and there's more energy in those matches. They are played with enthusiasm. 

"We know how hard it is to win in Montilivi. It's going to be difficult and important. We are at a time when points count. It will be difficult."

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