TURIN (Italy) • Sometimes even a superhero needs a break, especially if he is going to lead his team in a domestic top-of-the-table clash over the weekend.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi was surprisingly left on the bench as the Spanish giants held on for a 0-0 Champions League draw at Juventus on Wednesday. Ernesto Valverde chose to rest the Argentinian ahead of Sunday's LaLiga battle with second-placed Valencia.
"There are times when despite his great quality Leo has to rest," said the Barcelona coach.
Messi came on after 56 minutes but could not add to the brace he scored in the 3-0 beating inflicted on Juventus at home in September.
"Leo has played a lot since the beginning of the season. Like everyone, he's a bit tired," added Valverde. "We thought that it could open up more in the second half, and that it would be useful to give him a bit of rest with a view towards the championship."
On Wednesday, Barcelona enjoyed long spells of possession but used it as a defensive tactic to stop Juventus attacking rather than creating chances themselves.
The Italian side were lacklustre, with forward Gonzalo Higuain ineffective as they failed to score in a home match for the first time since September last year.
Barcelona's Champions League scorelines in the last two matches, at Olympiakos and Juventus, both with Lionel Messi in the line-up.
The Turin side nearly snatched a win in stoppage time but Paulo Dybala's low shot from the edge of the area was turned around the post by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Even so, coach Massimiliano Allegri enjoyed the match. He said: "We were more interested in the performance than the result."
He also admitted it had changed the dynamics not seeing Messi starting. "It's the first time in 13 matches that I've played Barcelona that Messi hasn't played, but when he came on the players controlled him well. For us it's an important point."
The Serie A side, who are second in Group D, will qualify for the last 16 unless they fail to beat Olympiakos away in their final game next month and Sporting win at Barcelona.
Sporting kept alive their own hopes by beating Olympiakos 3-1 in Lisbon.
Barcelona, who played their second successive goal-less draw in the group, have 11 points and are guaranteed to finish top. Juve are on eight, Sporting on seven and Olympiakos on one.
Valverde said: "We could have had a few more chances but it's not easy to finish top of such a tough group. We're satisfied with our solidity."
Allegri recalled veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and centre-back Andrea Barzagli after they were left out for Sunday's 3-2 defeat at Sampdoria following Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup.
And the most entertaining moment came after the final whistle when the 39-year-old Buffon took off his gloves and shorts and threw them into the crowd.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE