Mallorca coach doesn’t want to anger Messi again

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring against Eibar at Nou Camp in February. (AP pic)

BARCELONA: Real Mallorca welcome Barcelona and captain Lionel Messi on Saturday in their first game back since the season was halted in March and coach Vicente Moreno has said he will be careful not to wind up the Catalan side’s record scorer this time.

Messi netted a hat-trick the last time the teams met back in December during a 5-2 win for Barca at the Nou Camp and Moreno said a confrontation with the Argentine in the first half of that match may have riled the forward up and motivated him more.

“I won’t be having another run in with Messi, it went pretty badly the last time as he ended up scoring three goals,” Moreno told Spanish radio station Onda Cero ahead of the game.

Barca were leading Mallorca 2-1 when Messi was subjected to a strong tackle from Joan Sastre and earned a foul which Moreno disputed, provoking an angry reaction from the Argentine.

Messi then scored his second goal and Luis Suarez struck again immediately after, with the Barca skipper rounding off the thrashing in the second half to complete his treble.

“It was a foul but at the time I didn’t think it was and I told the referee and that didn’t go down well with Messi. There was an exchange of words and that was that,” Moreno said of the discussion on a podcast with Spanish journalist Edu Pino.

“The big exchange happened in the tunnel at halftime, when Messi told me they were going to put seven goals past us and he said the same to Luis Suarez.

“They didn’t manage seven goals but after the game my players said I was responsible for the defeat because I had angered Leo. He is the best player in the world, look at the character he has.”

Title holders Barca were top on 58 points after 27 games when the season was suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading nearest challengers Real Madrid by two points.