Without the five-time World Player of the Year, Argentina then lost 2-0 to Bolivia to fall to fifth in South American World Cup qualifying with only the top four guaranteed their places in Russian Federation next year.
"The fixture list is overloaded enough as it is and then you have the global games", Luis Enrique explained ahead of his side hosting Sevilla on Wednesday. It's unlikely he'll admit as much, but a mini-break has done him well.
Messi has often been the subject of criticism for Argentina's failures and the 29-year-old came in for more scrutiny after receiving a four-match ban for verbally abusing an assistant referee during a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Chile last month.
A run of five consecutive Sevilla wins was ended by Alaves at the beginning of March, and Sevilla have been unable to recover their mojo since.
Real Madrid is in first place with 68 points.
What time does the Barcelona vs Sevilla match start at?
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MF Andres Iniesta, 8 - Gave one of his better performances in a hard season and crucially completed 90 minutes for only the second time in a league game this campaign. We always think that the next game is the most important.
"It is hard for us to accept right now, but we have to turn it around because we are the same team as five games ago when we were second", said striker Stefan Jovetic after a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to third bottom Sporting Gijon on Saturday.
Coach Diego Simeone was happy afterwards with the efficient nature of the performance: "We worked hard for each other and had less possession for sure, but we had good chances - the two goals and some others too". We are the same team that we were five matches ago, when we were in second place.
"Maybe the elimination against Leicester affected them", Luis Enrique said. They are followed by Real Madrid, whose squad is fighting to get back its first position in today's match against Leganes.
Keylor Navas looks likely to return in goal after Zinedine Zidane gave him his vote of confidence on Tuesday, but the Madrid coach will have to decide whether to risk ace forward Cristiano Ronaldo and defender Dani Carvajal, who are both one booking off missing Saturday's derby at home to Atletico Madrid.
Madrid has won four in a row in the league and has scored at least a goal in its last 50 games in all competitions.
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