Argentina coach lambasts Barca for Messi injury

BUENOS AIRES • Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza blasted Barcelona on Thursday, after losing talisman Lionel Messi for vital World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Paraguay next month.

The forward will be sidelined for the next three weeks due to a torn right adductor suffered in Barca's 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Bauza was critical of the Spanish football club for playing Messi in four games in 12 days despite a groin injury in his other leg that limited him earlier in the season.

"They send us messages to look after Messi but they don't protect him. He plays every match," Bauza, who said his team would nevertheless cope, told Fox Sports.

"We've already played without Messi. Having him is an advantage for the problems he creates (for opponents). But for me as coach and for the team it's a challenge if we have to play without him."

Argentina resume their World Cup qualifying campaign at Peru on Oct 6 and play Paraguay at home five days later.

"I am thinking that Messi is not going to be able to play in the qualifiers," the coach said. "But we hope that it is nothing serious and that in three weeks he returns to action.

"Tactically, there isn't much we could change without him. I have various options, which we will evaluate once we have all the players."

Argentina are third in the South American World Cup qualifying group, one point behind leaders Uruguay. Only the top four teams earn an automatic place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Messi, who is also expected to miss Barca's next three games at Sporting Gijon, Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League and Celta Vigo, insisted that he will bounce back "even stronger".

"I now have to rest for a few days before coming back even stronger," he posted on his Facebook page. "I would also like to thank everyone who has sent me their best wishes."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2016, with the headline 'Argentina coach lambasts Barca for Messi injury'. Print Edition | Subscribe