Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova has said that he took the decision of leaving Lionel Messi on the bench due to the confidence in the rest of the team. Messi was on the substitutes bench for the second leg against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final. It was a match that Barcelona lost 3-0, while the aggregate 7-0 loss was one of the heaviest defeats they have suffered in the history. This has put a lot of pressure on manager Vilanova, who has missed several months of action due to cancer treatment.
Vilanova took the gamble of playing Messi in the first leg at the Allianz Arena. It was a gamble that did not play dividends, as the team was convincingly beaten 4-0 with Messi largely being a passenger in the match. Strangely, Vilanova decided to use Messi in the weekend’s match against Athletic Bilbao. The Argentine star came on as a substitute in the match, which prompted suggestions that he may start against Bayern Munich. However, Vilanova said that he was not yet fully fit in order to start the match. There was a fear that he may aggravate the injury if he played against Bayern Munich.
There has been criticism of Barcelona for being over reliant on Lionel Messi.
“Leo played in Bilbao on Saturday because he felt better. He imprinted a change on the team but at the end of the game he felt some strange sensations. He trained this week, but he didn’t feel right. He is an explosive player and there was a risk he could tear his hamstring, so he couldn’t help the team in these conditions. All these years when we have played without Leo we have won games by small margins, but this year in the league we have won games 5-0 and 3-0 without him on the pitch,” said Vilanova.