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Lionel Messi has been included in Barcelona’s squad for their friendly against Mamelodi Sundowns in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday after being rested for the 5-4 defeat to Levante on Sunday.
The Argentinian is part of a 23-man group for the late-season clash, which also includes youth players Carles Alena, Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta and Jorge Cuenca, per the club’s official website.
FC Barcelona 🏆🏆 @FCBarcelona
40.R de Galarreta
41.J Cuenca https://t.co/JLOl7BqMx5
The only first-team players not to travel to South Africa are defenders Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen, who are both injured.
The fixture will take place at Soccer City, which also hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup final—when Barca’s Andres Iniesta netted the winning goal for Spain.
In Messi’s absence against Levante, Barca’s hopes of going the entire 2017-18 La Liga season unbeaten were ended in the penultimate game of the campaign.
It was reported the Argentinian superstar was rested due to the upcoming friendly against Mamelodi Sundowns, which is being played to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela, per Goal’s Ben Hayward:
Ben Hayward @bghayward
For those asking why Messi is not playing tonight:
Barcelona have a friendly in South Africa against Mamelodi Sundowns on Wednesday and contractually, I imagine Leo will have to play that. So he is rested for the Levante game.
#Messi #LevanteBarca #FCBlive
His inclusion in the squad for Wednesday’s clash (kick-off 5:15 p.m. BST, 12:15 p.m. ET) effectively confirms that, as it seems clear he was not sidelined due to fitness issues.
Because Barcelona ended up losing their unbeaten run without Messi against Levante, the wisdom of agreeing to a friendly fixture before the end of the domestic season is likely to be questioned.
Barcelona had already wrapped up the league title, but they were on course for an achievement rarely seen in the modern game and never in a 38-game La Liga season.
Athletic Bilbao went unbeaten in La Liga in 1929-30, and Real Madrid did the same thing in 1931-32, but sides only played 18 games in a campaign at that time.