Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has hinted that star man Lionel Messi could be rested this weekend following his side's 1-0 win over Valencia in the Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday evening.
The 30-year-old played a key role in yet another Blaugrana victory, setting up teammate Luis Suarez for the only goal of the game midway through the second half with a simple cross following a mazing run into the area.
The cup clash was the Argentine's eighth outing since the conclusion of the winter break 25 days ago, in which he has failed to complete the full 90 minutes just once.
There have been telling signs of Barcelona's fatigue of late, with performance levels dropping throughout the camp, including during their 2-1 win over Alaves last weekend, and ahead of their derby with Espanyol on Sunday, Valverde has hinted that Messi could be one of a number of players given a breather.
"When Messi plays the ball, everybody expects many things from him", the Spaniard said in his post-match press conference, as quoted by Goal.
Valverde says there will be a few changes against Espanyol on Sunday. Says run of games catching up on the players.— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) February 1, 2018
"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."
One player who is expected to be involved from the outset is record-signing Philippe Coutinho who, despite featuring three times for his new club since his £144m move from Liverpool last month, has started just once.
Coutinho looks like a different player away from the right wing. Some nice link-ups tonight, good switches of play.— TalkFCB (@FCBNewsRoom) February 1, 2018
However, it seems that although the Brazilian became Blaugrana's biggest ever recruit, financially, he will still have to bow to his fellow South American's demands.
"It's true that Coutinho played on the centre because sometimes Messi likes playing on the right side", Valverde added.
"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 he used to play on the left but for Brazil he used to play on the right side. He can suit any place forward."