Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde left Lionel Messi on the substitutes' bench for his side's Champions League group stage clash against Juventus on Wednesday (22 November) in order to keep him fresh ahead of what looks set to be a rather hectic schedule between now and the Christmas break.
Messi has been in predictably extraordinary form for the Blaugrana this season, helping them to qualify for the last-16 of Europe's premier club competition and race to a four-point lead at the top of La Liga.
Eyebrows were inevitably raised when his name was not included in the starting line-up to face Juve, but manager Valverde stressed that the Barcelona legend was "fine" with his decision to leave him in the stands until the 56th minute.
The Argentina international has played over 1,650 minutes of football for Barcelona already this season and his minutes may need to be managed as he reaches the latter stages of his glittering career, but Valverde chose to be vague when asked if the 30-year-old agreed with his decision to drop him from the starting line-up.
"Messi is fine. He's been playing a lot games," Valverde said in his post-match press conference. "We wanted to go all out in the second half when there were more spaces to expose.
"Did Messi agree to sit on the bench? The coach is the one to decide; this was an internal situation."
Barcelona missed their majestic talisman during the first half, though he did not exactly light up the Allianz Stadium when he was eventually brought on in the second half. Juventus and Barcelona played out a tepid 0-0 draw in Turin, though the point ensured the Blaugrana's passage to the last-16 as group leaders.
Valverde's men did not force Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to make a single save throughout the match, but their stopper Marc Andre ter Stegen had to be at his brilliant best to deny Paulo Dybala at the death. The Germany international has been in wondrous form for Barcelona this season, saving over 89% of the shots he has faced in all competitions, and Valverde was keen to praise his 'keeper's vital stop in the dying embers of the clash against Max Allegri's side.
"Ter Stegen was crucial at the end of the game," Valverde said. "He's been decisive. We suffered a lot today and we would have suffered even more if Dybala's shot went in. In the end, we have qualified and we move forward from here."
Barcelona's bore draw against Juve on Wednesday was the polar opposite of Sevilla's memorable 3-3 classic against Liverpool the night before. Eduardo Berizzo's men came from three goals down to salvage a point against Jurgen Klopp's side, though the match was put into perspective at the end of the night.
Reports from Spain revealed that Berizzo was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and told his players during half-time against Liverpool. The news was confirmed by the Andalusians on Wednesday, and Valverde, like the rest of the football world, lent his support to the Argentine.
"Did I message Berizzo? Of course I messaged him. I'm close to him and I talked with him a lot. On behalf of Barça, we send him our support and we hope that he will come back stronger than ever," Valverde said.