Players need more protection, says Barca coach Koeman after resting Messi

RESENDING WITH COMPLETE SCRIPT

VIDEO SHOWS: BARCELONA SQUAD DURING TEAM TRAINING SESSION, SOUNDBITES FROM BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH ON WHY HE IS RESTING LIONEL MESSI AND FRENKIE DE JONG

SHOWS: BARCELONA, SPAIN (NOVEMBER 23, 2020) (BARCA TV HANDOUT - MUST NOT OBSCURE LOGO)

1. BARCELONA SQUAD WALKING ONTO TRAINING PITCH

2. BARCELONA FORWARD, LIONEL MESSI (FOREGROUND), AND MIDFIELDER, FRENKIE DE JONG (FURTHEST IN BACKGROUND), WALKING ONTO PITCH WITH TEAM MATES

3. SQUAD HUDDLING ON PITCH

4. PLAYERS INCLUDING MESSI, MIDFIELDER, MIRALEM PJANIC (TO THE RIGHT OF MESSI), AND PHILIPPE COUTINHO (FAR RIGHT) LISTENING AS COACH, RONALD KOEMAN, GIVES INSTRUCTIONS AND BREAKS UP HUDDLE FOR TRAINING TO START

5. SQUAD SPREADING OUT ON FIELD TO BEGIN TRAINING

6. SQUAD STARTING WARMUP DRILLS

7. SQUAD RUNNING DRILL

8. KOEMAN WALKING ACROSS PITCH

9. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FC BARCELONA COACH, RONALD KOEMAN, SAYING:

"First of all, we thought it was a good moment to give a rest to Leo (Lionel Messi) and Frenkie (de Jong). Both players played all the games, mostly all the minutes and they needed to play with their national teams. Messi had a difficult trip back from South America. It's a long trip and of course, sometimes you need to protect the players because the calendar of games is incredible. And we played on Saturday (November 21). We played late. We came back late. We have to travel today. We play late. We will come back early in the morning on Wednesday (November 25) and it's impossible to keep the payers fit. Because you have examples like Sergi Roberto that the reason that he's injured was about the many games he had to play and that's sometimes difficult. We were unlucky with the injuries of (Gerard) Pique, of Ansu (Fati). They are different injuries than physical problems of overload of the players. Everybody knows, all the coaches, all the players, they know this. But still, we need to continue to play that number of games. It's incredible. I think it's time for everyone, UEFA, FIFA, to think about what we are doing with the football players, because it's crazy what they need to play."

10. MESSI (TAIL END) AND TEAM MATES RUNNING A DRILL

11. DE JONG (MIDDLE OF PACK) SEEN RUNNING DRILL ALONGSIDE TEAM MATES, MESSI FOLLOWING AT THE TAIL END

12. MORE OF SQUAD RUNNING DRILLS

13. KOEMAN WATCHING AS SQUAD RUNS DRILLS

14. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FC BARCELONA COACH, RONALD KOEMAN, SAYING:

"Well, we have some people benched due to injury and we have also decided not to bring Leo (Lionel Messi) or Frenkie (de Jong) because the situation in the Champions League is pretty comfortable given the nine points we have. And these two players need a rest because they've been playing so many games and we think it is the right moment for them to rest."

15. DE JONG RUNNING DRILL WITH DEFENDER, CLEMENT LENGLET, BEHIND HIM AND DEFENDER, JUNIOR FIRPO, IN FRONT OF HIM

16. SQUAD RUNNING DRILLS IN THREE GROUPS

17. BARCELONA FORWARD, ANTOINE GRIEZMANN, RUNNING DRILL / DEFENDER, SERGINO DEST, FOLLOWING BEHIND HIM

18. MESSI AND TEAM MATES RUNNING DRILL

19. MESSI KICKING BALL AND RUNNING DRILL

20. BARCELONA GOALKEEPER, MARC-ANDRE TER STEGEN, TRAINING IN THE NET

21. GOALKEEPERS TRAINING

22. COUTINHO KICKING BALL AND RUNNING A DRILL

23. KOEMAN WALKING ACROSS PITCH

24. SQUAD BROKEN INTO THREE GROUPS RUNNING DRILLS

STORY: Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has joined other managers in lashing out at the packed European football calendar after deciding to rest Lionel Messi for Tuesday's (November 24) Champions League trip to Dynamo Kyiv.

Barca lost Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto to serious injuries in Saturday's (November 21) 1-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid in La Liga, leaving them with only three defenders in the first team squad for the trip to Ukraine.

While the loss to Atletico sealed their worst start to a La Liga season in 29 years, Barca are flying high in Europe with three wins out of three in Group G and victory against Dynamo will clinch their place in the last 16.

Koeman said his side's strong position in Group G was behind him resting Messi and Dutch midfielder Frenkie De Jong but he also took a swipe at the unforgiving football schedule, saying global organiser FIFA and European counterpart UEFA should take action.

"Sometimes you need to protect the players because the game calendar is incredible," Koeman told a virtual news conference on Monday (November 23).

The gruelling European schedule, which has been further squeezed by the COVID-19 pandemic, has come under renewed scrutiny recently due to mounting injuries.

Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp took aim at broadcasters Sky and BT on Sunday (November 20) over match scheduling, while Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane also said there were too many games.

(Production: Kurt Michael Hall)