With El Clasico coming up, Barcelona star Lionel Messi seemed convinced that the referee was keen to trigger a suspension in last night’s 1-0 win over Valladolid, which would mean missing the world’s biggest derby on Saturday.

Together with midfielder Frenkie de Jong, the Argentine met four yellow cards at Camp Nou on Monday.

Anyone else who was added to his balance sheet would have automatically led to a game ban.

But when La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid were eliminated from a 1-0 defeat in Seville 24 hours earlier, coach Ronald Koeman had to take a risk.

A win would cause the Blaugrana to draw within a point of Diego Simeone’s men, and Koeman therefore put together his strongest team possible.

His gambling paid off when De Jong and Messi both came out of the tie unscathed, but the Ballon d’Or owner was convinced the referee had done it for him.

Messi left during the break and complained about Santiago Jaime Latre. His comments were picked up by Movistar +.

“The referee wants to give me an incredible yellow card,” Messi told club member Carles Naval.

Messi Pep Talk in the tunnel: “We have to move up a gear, we have to play with more rhythm. We have to win this as we can.”

– Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) April 5, 2021

Elsewhere, Messi received praise for his leadership skills as separate footage was broadcast by the same local broadcaster.

In the tunnel, which ended 0-0 before the second half, he was caught shaking up the troops with the demand: “We have to move up a gear, we have to play with more rhythm. We have to win this, however.” we can”.

‘Messi is not a leader’ [they say]. Just because he’s not flapping his arms or cheerleading on the sidelines doesn’t mean he’s not, “said one fan.

In any case, the speech clearly worked. Barca started circulating the ball faster – a common criticism of a lackluster opening spell – and eventually found a 90th-minute winner through Ousmane Dembele’s stunning off-foot volley.

With a win against Real Madrid on Saturday, they can finally take the lead in the Spanish top division until Atletico may win the next day, which would mean a massive morale boost given their catastrophic slump at the start of the season.

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