Luis Enrique delays decision on Messi


Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique says Lionel Messi is injury free but will not make a decision on whether he will face Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday until earlier in the day.

Messi was forced off at half-time of his side's 6-0 thrashing of Athletic on Sunday with a hamstring complaint, though tests confirmed he did not suffer any muscle damage.

But Luis Enrique, who stated after the match he was eager not to take undue risks with his star forward, has refused to state whether he will feature in the Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg.

"Messi is good, he does not have any injuries, just a little discomfort," the Barca boss told the media on Tuesday. "We'll see about tomorrow."

When asked if Messi would benefit from sitting out certain games, Luis Enrique simply replied: "Ask him."

Luis Enrique also confirmed Neymar "is perfect" after he underwent some recovery work in training following Sunday's victory.

Athletic played almost the entirety of Sunday's Liga fixture with 10 men after goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz was sent off for bringing down Luis Suarez inside the penalty area.

But Luis Enrique insists the result and performance will have little impact on Wednesday's clash, adding: "We've analysed the situation but there's no guarantee the same thing will happen.

"It altered the way we'll look at the game but we still analysed it and there are positives and negatives to take from it. It's motivating to play in the quarter-finals of the Copa.

"It's definitely going to be difficult but obviously it's an attractive game. We won the competition last year and we want games like this to help to build the team's spirit."

The former Celta Vigo boss also warned against discounting Real Madrid from the Liga title race, after midfielder Sergio Busquets suggested Atletico Madrid are stronger rivals to Barca's crown this season.

"I think Atletico are having a very good season, very similar to previous seasons. They're definitely an important opponent but they have been since the start of the season," he added.

"They've always been a favourite for the league since [coach Diego] Simeone took over but don't discount Real Madrid."