Sevilla boss Unai Emery dodged all questions about Lionel Messi's form ahead of Sunday's clash with Barcelona, explaining that he was desperate to avoid "waking the beast".
The Argentine's performances of late have been the subject of much debate, with former Blaugrana assistant coach Angel Cappa claiming earlier this week that the four-time Ballon d'Or winner has lost his passion for football.
However, Emery was reluctant to be drawn into saying anything that might prompt a Messi backlash at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday.
"I would not want to wake the beast," he replied when asked about the Barcelona attacker's current form.
Emery also tried to play down a touchline dust-up with Malaga boss Bernd Schuster at the weekend, during which the former Valencia boss called the German a "clown".
"What I was doing was trying to say that he should stop acting the way he was," the 42-year-old Spaniard explained.
"But a clown is a very dignified profession; they give joy to people. But if I offended anyone, I apologise."
Sevilla are without a win in four Liga games, having followed up successive draws against Elche and Atletico Madrid with back-to-back defeats to Levante and Malaga.
However, with the Rojiblancos just five points behind sixth-placed Real Sociedad, Emery still believes that his troops can qualify for the Europa League.
"We have had a little slump of late but now we must focus on taking things game by game," he reasoned.
"Our goal should be to get into Europe and we are still within range. What we have to do is be strong. I know this team has strength; it has just been broken in recent weeks."