Football, News 2018-02-02 8:50 AM

Barcelona must ease the weight of expectations around Lionel Messi, claims manager Ernesto Valverde.

The Argentine star set up Luis Suarez‘s winning goal in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg victory over Valencia at the Nou Camp on Thursday night.

But Valverde believes he must be allowed room to breathe as Barca continue their hunt for trophies in the second half of the season.

‘When Messi plays the ball, everybody expects many things from him’, said Valverde after the 1-0 win.

‘Sometimes it’s too much because we have to let Messi breathe a bit.

‘It’s true he is an awesome player as we have said many, many times. It’s a spectacle watching him every day.’

The 30-year-old has been superb once again for Barca this season, and has 27 goals in 33 games so far.
Valverde will hope the £142m acquisition of Philippe Coutinho last month will ease the burden surrounding Messi, though he started on the bench this week.

Barcelona’s manager hinted his versatility may prove key between now and the end of the season.

‘It’s true that Coutinho played on the centre because sometimes Messi likes playing on the right side,’ Valverde said.

‘If that happens we have to readjust a bit. Our idea is Coutinho should play on the sides, when Messi plays in the centre, but he can play everywhere.

‘It’s true that for Liverpool used to play on the left but for Brazil he used to play on the right side. He can suit any place forward.’

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