Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola is set to rest star forward Lionel Messi when the champions return to action this weekend against Villarreal.
According to Sport, Guardiola is understood to have allowed Barca's South American contingent to return from holidays on Jan. 2, which is the same day as they take on Ernesto Valverde's side.
The Blaugrana are already set to be without Yaya Toure, who has linked up with the Ivory Coast for the African Cup of Nations, and Seydou Keita, who is injured. Andres Iniesta is also carrying a knock and expected to miss the Yellow Submarine's visit to Camp Nou.
However, Guardiola is keen to give the Ballon d'Or and FIFA Player of the Year a rest after a hectic opening half of the season. The coach was forced to use the Argentinian forward more than expected this season with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thierry Henry and Iniesta all nursing injuries earlier this year.
Messi also had injuries during the opening months of the campaign but on each occasion returned to action after the shortest possible period of absence and Guardiola now feels it may be time to rest his talisman.