Valverde: Messi halftime substitution ‘only a precaution’

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For a bit longer than a half-hour, Barcelona was actually feeling pretty good about its rough season.

Lionel Messi had made his first start of the season, assisted on a goal from new boy Antoine Griezmann, and Arthur Melo scored a fantastic rocket goal to build a 2-0 lead for the Blaugranas.

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But Messi pulled up lame with a thigh injury, left the field and returned… only to come off at halftime of a 2-1 defeat of Villarreal that put 3W-1D-2L Barca within a point of the top of the table before five other contenders take the field.

Ernesto Valverde called it “only a precaution,” via the AP:

“When something happens to Messi, it seems that the world comes to a halt,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “But it looks like it’s only some minor pain in his abductor (muscle). We replaced him as a precaution. We don’t want to take any risks.”

Barca has lost to Athletic Bilbao and Granada, drawing Osasuna and starting Champions League life with a 0-0 draw at Borussia Dortmund.

All-told, Messi started Tuesday’s game having made 31- and 45-minute appearances. He only added another 45 to his tally.