Lionel Messi sees boon in break
Lionel Messi believes the long break caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be a boon for Barcelona.
“Maybe this stoppage will end up benefiting us, but we will have to see if we are restarting the competitions and then we will know the truth,” Messi told a Spanish sports daily.
Barcelona and Spain’s soccer leagues have not played since March 12, when La Liga halted action as the country’s Covid-19 virus outbreak picked up speed. More than 27,000 Spaniards are known to have died from the disease.
Messi did not cite his reason for thinking the stoppage would be good, but the return of strike partner Luis Suarez from injury is surely one, and resetting another.
Another boost could be more rest. Barcelona have suffered big losses in key matches in the Champions League in the last three seasons, including last season’s 0-4 debacle at Liverpool in the semi-final. In those matches it appeared that Barcelona were worn down by a long season.
When play was stopped in March, Barcelona were leading the league by two points over Real Madrid. It was also in the round-of-16 of the Champions League.
It has, however, been a rocky season for Barcelona. Besides public spats between club officials and players over their inconsistent play, the club made a rare in-season coaching change when it fired Ernesto Valverde and replaced him with Quique Setien.
Barcelona struggled to adapt to Setien’s playing style, whose emphasis on ball possession and attacking was different from Valverde’s more balanced approach.
“Playing like we did in the matches before play was stopped, we would never win the Champions League,” Messi said. “I have no doubts about my teammates and that we can win it all, but not in the way we had been playing.”
EPL restart roadblock
The Premier League’s bid to restart the season in June is in danger of being derailed by a heated debate between players about the risks of playing amid the pandemic.
While Premier League chiefs believe completing the campaign is essential to safeguard the financial and sporting future of the game, some stars are not so convinced.
Watford captain Troy Deeney has been one of the loudest voices against returning to the pitch so soon. “I’m not even talking about football at the moment. I’m talking about my family’s health,” Deeney said on Instagram.