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FC Barcelona could open La Liga without Lionel Messi

Aug 15, 2013, 12:15 PM EDT

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After picking up a left thigh strain in training during FC Barcelona’s preseason trip to Malaysia, Lionel Messi is in serious doubt for the opening league match of the season against Levante on Saturday. As of Thursday, he is still not training with the team.

Messi traveled to Rome for Argentina’s 2-1 friendly win over Italy on Wednesday, but he did not participate in any sessions and left the camp early to return to Spain. Messi stayed in Italy just long enough to undergo some tests with the Argentinian team’s medical staff and meet Pope Francis, in whose honor the friendly against Italy was being played.

Three days after the first Liga BBVA match, Barça will take on Atlético Madrid for the Supercopa de España. Still farther in the future is the second league match, on Aug. 25 at Málaga, and the second leg of the Supercopa on Aug. 28. At this point, it’s unclear when Messi could return to the lineup, but he has already been out of action for nearly a week.

However, young Barça forward Cristian Tello played 90 minutes for Spain in a 2-0 win in Ecuador, assisting Santi Cazorla’s second goal of the game. Tello generally plays on the wing in his club and country’s 4-3-3 formations, but he can also play as the center forward.

Alexis Sánchez is another possible starter at the position, and he scored twice and assisted two more in Chile’s 6-0 rout of Iraq on Wednesday in Brøndby, Denmark.

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