Messi's absence will not be used as an excuse, says Martino

The Argentine has been ruled out of Sunday's game versus Malaga after picking up a knock in the Supercopa first leg against Atletico Madrid
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino insists Lionel Messi's absence from the squad to face Malaga in La Liga will not be used as an excuse for a poor performance.

The Argentine was ruled out of Sunday's encounter following a thigh injury against Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa first leg in midweek.

Although Martino says the 25-year-old's omission is a precautionary measure against aggravating the injury further, he expects the team to produce the same levels of performance that they have achieved during his reign to date.

“We have a lot of really good players to produce a good game and we mustn’t use Messi’s absence as an excuse," he told the club's official website.

Meanwhile, Martino says that Messi's time on the pitch will not have any impact on how many games Neymar plays.

The 21-year-old Brazilian is yet to start for the Catalans but the Barca boss says there is no hurry to rush the former Santos man into the starting XI.

“We’ve got a schedule for Neymar and there’s no footballing situation that will shorten it," he added.

“Just because Messi doesn’t play that doesn’t mean Neymar has to take the helm.

“He’s looking better and better as days go by and he accumulates training and gets to know his team-mates and the club.  My intention is that when he plays, he does so at the top of his game."