Soccer-Koeman hopes to see revitalized Messi against Osasuna

BARCELONA — Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said he hoped Lionel Messi will have reaped the benefits of being rested in mid-week when his side host Osasuna on Sunday, bidding to revive their troubled start to the La Liga season.

Messi, who has looked far from his usual best for most of the season and was poor in last week’s 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, was kept at home along with midfielder Frenkie de Jong for Tuesday’s 4-0 win away at Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League.

“Messi has had a good rest as has Frenkie, and they both needed it because they had played almost every minute with us and their national teams, so we decided to leave them at home to ensure they didn’t get any physical problems,” Koeman told a news conference on Saturday.

“I hope tomorrow they’ll be fresh and can offer the best of themselves as we really need them.”

Barca will also be helped by the return of veteran midfielder Sergio Busquets from injury. But Koeman said he may have to rest Sergino Dest, who is his only fit rightback after Sergi Roberto tore a muscle last week, as the US defender complained of tiredness after the win in Kyiv.

Central defender Oscar Mingueza may get his first league start after impressing on his debut in Kyiv along with a host of other fringe players as Barca outclassed the Ukrainians despite making so many changes.

Koeman said he was open to rotating his squad more often after the success of Tuesday’s game, adding that his side are benefiting from opponents being more open in the Champions League than in La Liga.

“It’s difficult to explain what is happening. In La Liga we are struggling against teams who are more tight in defense, while in Europe teams are playing with more freedom and we find it easier to dominate games that way.

“But I think we’ve also not deserved to drop so many points in the league.” (Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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