Barcelona's Lionel Messi could be back vs. Inter Milan - Ernesto Valverde
Barcelona star Lionel Messi could return to action as soon as Tuesday, coach Ernesto Valverde said after the Blaugrana's 3-2 victory at Rayo Vallecano.
The win was Barca's third straight without Messi, who is currently out with a broken bone in his right arm. However, Valverde told reporters after the match that Messi could be back for the La Liga leaders' midweek trip to Milan, where Barca will face Inter in the Champions League.
"I think we all play better with Messi in the side," Valverde said. "We will see how he is in training [on Sunday] with regards to the Inter game this week."
Luis Suarez scored twice in Vallecas as Barcelona had to come from behind to edge past Rayo Vallecano but the striker admitted Valverde had every right to be angry with the team's performance after the match.
Suarez gave Barca an early lead but Rayo roared back with goals from Jose Pozo and Alvaro Garcia as the La Liga leaders switched off.
The home side looked set to hold on to all three points until substitute Ousmane Dembele equalised in the 87th minute, giving way to Suarez's dramatic 90th-minute winner.
"I could understand if [Barca coach] Valverde, despite the win, is angry with us," Suarez, who is now La Liga's top scorer with nine goals, told reporters.
"We, the players, have to be self-critical. Small details at these grounds can make a big difference. It's places like this where you can throw the league away. It didn't happen here, but we came close."
Suarez, who has scored six times in his last three league games, blamed Barca's poor performance on sloppiness after taking the lead.
"We relaxed a little bit after getting in front," he added. "We'd dominated the early stages but [Rayo] had 10 really good minutes before half-time when they equalised.
"Maybe it was down to an excess of confidence but we also have to give credit to the opposition. They were in need of the points and their fans really pushed them on.
"The important thing is that we turned things around and picked up the three points -- especially knowing that Atletico Madrid had drawn earlier."
Barca are now four points clear of Atletico -- although Alaves, Sevilla and Espanyol could all leapfrog Diego Simeone's side before the end of the weekend -- and have won their last three games in La Liga following a four-match winless streak.
Valverde felt his side were worthy winners in the end but admitted there were elements of the performance he didn't like.
"We have to be happy with the result," he said in a news conference. "Maybe their first goal came from us not controlling the situation and losing the ball two or three times in a row. They grew from there.
"It was complicated. We always want to play football, although [it was difficult because] they sat back quite a lot. It was tough to break them down. At 2-1 down, we persevered and we, in the end, we got the prize for pressing well."