Koeman says Messi will have final word on fitness


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Valladolid v FC Barcelona - Estadio Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid, Spain - December 22, 2020 Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman REUTERS/Juan Medina

MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman says he will allow Lionel Messi to take a decision on his fitness ahead of the Spanish Super Cup final against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Messi missed Wednesday's penalty shootout victory over Real Sociedad after picking up an injury in last weekend's victory over Granada.

"He trained alone yesterday and today he'll join the group. We'll see if he's available or not," Koeman told a news conference.

"The player himself always has the last word (on his fitness). We'll wait and see how his body reacts tomorrow morning but we're hoping he'll be available. It'd obviously be much better if he can be with us as it gives you a better chance of winning.

"We're talking about the world's best player here, and if he's not around, we miss something. With him in it, the side is stronger thanks to his creativity and clinical edge that we can sometimes lack."

Barca's meeting with Bilbao comes less than a fortnight after they beat the Basque outfit 3-2 in La Liga thanks to two Messi efforts, although Koeman said that counts for nothing ahead of the final.

"Every game is different, and they'll have looked back at the game and found things.

"We can improve things too. We'll see tomorrow, but we need to be ready and be better than last time."

The Catalans will be without long-term absentees Gerard Pique, Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and Philippe Coutinho.

(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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