Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has claimed that Lionel Messi is "perfectly" fit to play the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg against Valencia on Wednesday (3 February) despite the Argentinian missing Monday's training session. The Spanish boss also claimed that he is not concerned about the lack of January transfer additions, although he had previously said he was likely to bolster his attack during the transfer window.
Messi played the full game during the 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid over the weekend, scoring the opener to help his side to secure a crucial victory in their hopes to revalidate the title race. However, his participation in the Copa del Rey game was under scrutiny as during the game he suffered a heavy high tackle from Filipe Luis, which saw the former Chelsea left-back taken off.
The Barcelona ace was consequently unable to train with the rest of his teammates on Monday, but Luis Enrique has played down fears after claiming he is fit to face Valencia.
"He's perfectly OK," Enrique said in the press conference ahead of the game, while also saying all of the squad were fit for the busy second part of the season. "We are developing physically. We're performing well. We are ready to compete in what will not be easy conditions going into the final stage of the season," he added. "The team is feeling positive. Good morale is always important, although it's sometimes hard to achieve. We need to analyse how each player is feeling as we go into every game. That's an essential part of the job. As coach it is one of my responsibilities."
The Barcelona manager is to have no new faces joining his squad after the Catalans couldn't afford to meet the €18m (£13.6m, $19.6m) release clause of Celta Vigo star Nolito due to the club's current debts. Luis Enrique had previously claimed that he was likely to purchase a new forward to back up the MSN trio formed by Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
However, asked whether he was worried about the lack of reinforcements, he said: "The transfer window... [is] over and there is nothing else to talk about."
The boss urged his side to focus on trying to get a positive result in their first-leg semi-final against Valencia, refusing to take anything for granted despite Gary Neville's side having failed to win a league game since the appointment of the former Manchester United legend. "Neville's Valencia play a good pressing game; his team already looks different from the one we saw before. The team has a strong sense of identity now. I expect a different Valencia from the one we met in the league. It's a different competition and they have a different coach now," Luis Enrique said.
"We have to prove that [we are the favourites]. We're aware that people look at us as favourites, it's not like we're a surprise or anything. But it only matters on the pitch and that's where we have to show it."