Antoine Griezmann is not finding it funny to connect with Lionel Messi at Barcelona, while coach Ernesto Valverde says he wouldn’t take any risks with the injured Messi against Inter Milan on Wednesday.
Lionel Messi has played only one match from the start this season but may be fit to play Barcelona’s second Champions League group game at Camp Nou.
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Griezmann so far has been covering Messi’s place in his absence but is yet to hit top form after joining Barca from Atletico Madrid for 120 million euros ($131 million) last summer. Griezmann has scored three goals in eight matches so far.
There were mix feelings on how Barca big players would welcome him following his refusal to join the club in 2018.
“In the end, Messi is not someone who talks a lot and neither do I so it has been difficult,” Antoine Griezmann said in a press conference on Tuesday.
“I have already given him some mate (tea) and we are heading in the right direction. He has been injured a lot so it is difficult to establish and improve this connection. But we are good guys, two good people, and I am here to help anyone on the team.”
Messi has been out of Barcelona’s pre-season games with a calf injury which was sustained at the beginning of August and then strained his thigh in his first start back against Villarreal on September 24.
Valverde thought that both Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele, who has a hamstring problem, are most unlikely to play Inter, but they may both play at home to Sevilla on Sunday.
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“We have to wait for training. Ousmane has done very little and Leo has done a bit more than half-training so we will see today if he can finish it. I don’t know if we will be able to count on them against Inter. But I reiterate we will not be taking any risks.” Valverde said on Tuesday.
Valverde confirmed that Ansu Fati (knee), Jordi Alba (thigh) and Samuel Umtiti (foot) are all down with injuries as Barca look forward to continuing their mini-resurgence against comfortable Inter who sits top of Serie A, with six wins out of six games.
After beating Villarreal 2-1 on Saturday, Gerard Pique called for unity after suggesting articles critical of the players in the Catalan press had come from Barcelona’s board.
Valverde said ”there was nothing special about the atmosphere in the dressing room. We have to try to pull in the same direction especially if controversies come from outside, not inside the club.”
Antoine Griezmann said: “It is like all dressing rooms, there are some players that when they speak, people listen more but it is nothing out of the ordinary.”
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The 28-year-old was used in a front two at Atletico but has played both on the left and as the lone striker in an attacking trio by Valverde.
“I am learning a different philosophy of playing and a different position. You have to learn, improve, adjust your movements. In two months, you cannot have it 100 percent. It will come and I know my teammates want the best out of me. I want that too, I demand the best of myself every day and I think I’m on the right track.” said Griezmann.