• Messi, Pique miss Granada trip

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    Lionel Messi
    AFP PHOTO

    BARCELONA: Barcelona boss Luis Enrique claimed Lionel Messi’s behavior towards referees is “impeccable” despite the Argentine racking up suspensions for club and country.

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    Messi is banned for the first time in five seasons for Sunday’s La Liga trip to Granada just days after being slapped with a four-game suspension for insulting an assistant referee during Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Chile.

    “He is always highly respectful with referees, there is zero conflict, he doesn’t create controversy,” Enrique said on Saturday.

    “That is something to admire for a player that is always under pressure and has the eyes of the world on him.

    “For me his behavior is impeccable.”

    The trip to Granada kicks off an action-packed April for Barca with nine games in 28 days.

    With that in mind, Enrique also left out Gerard Pique from his 18-man squad.

    Pique grabbed the headlines as he launched a fresh dig at rivals Real Madrid, saying he didn’t like the club’s “values” after Spain’s friendly win over France in midweek.

    However, his absence is more likely a precaution, as a booking would rule him out of Sevilla’s visit to the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

    “It is just to give a rest to a vital player for us,” added Enrique.

    “He has gone away with the national team and played every minute.

    “We understood that with such a dense calendar to come, above all in April, he needs a rest.”

    And Enrique is hoping Messi and Pique will be refreshed for tougher tests to come against Juventus in the Champions League and potentially decisive clash with Real Madrid on April 23.

    “We would like to always be able to call up Messi, but we have to look on the bright side.

    “They are players that are overloaded with minutes (throughout the season) and these small breaks are good for them.”

    Barca trail Madrid by two points at the top of La Liga, but Real also have a game in hand.

    AFP

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