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Why a fully-fit Lionel Messi will not play against Levante in La Liga tonight

Barcelona need to avoid defeat in their last two league fixtures to become the first top flight Spanish team to complete an invincible season

Barcelona are on the brink of history.

If the Catalan club avoid defeat in their final two league fixtures, they will become the first La Liga side in history to complete an invincible season.

The champions travel to Levante on Sunday evening before hosting Real Sociedad in the season’s closer next week.

Such an achievement would make the 2017/18 crop eternal legends.

So why isn’t a fully-fit Lionel Messi in the squad for the trip to Levante?

Allow us to explain

Getty - Contributor
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Allow us to explain

The Argentine forward has been ‘rested’ by Ernesto Valverde with some believing the Barca coach to be protecting his star player from injury ahead of this summer’s World Cup.

However, there are suggestions that Messi is missing out on the club’s penultimate league fixture so that he can feature in Barcelona’s midweek friendly against Mamelodi Sundowns.

Barca are set to face the ABSA Premiership champions in Johannesburg on Wednesday in a non-competive fixture in celebration of what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.

Unfortunately, Usain Bolt won’t be playing for the Sundowns

Getty Images - Getty
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Unfortunately, Usain Bolt won’t be playing for the Sundowns

Valverde hinted to Spanish media that Messi may play 45 minutes in South Africa, with the former Athletic Bilbao manager explaining he will prepare ‘two teams’ for the Mandela Centenary Cup.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is key to Barcelona’s global appeal and some believe there may be an agreement, either contractual or informal, that he must feature in the friendly.

While this is good news for fans who plan to attend the fixture on Wednesday, many Barca fans would question the club’s priorities.

If Barcelona were to lose to Levante, the decision to rest Messi would come in for severe criticism.

Preservation

Getty - Contributor
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Preservation

And then there’s the European Golden Shoe.

Messi leads Mohamed Salah by three goals in the race to crowned Europe’s ultimate goalscorer this season.

If the Egyptian were to score a hat-trick in Liverpool’s last game against Brighton (a difficult task, but certainly not beyond him), Messi would have to score against Real Sociedad to win the award outright.

The odds are still very much in Barcelona and Messi’s favour in terms of both an invincible season and the Golden Shoe.

But the door has been left open, unnecessarily so.


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