He was deemed to be lacking in freshness, and as such Ansu Fati was selected to partner Antoine Griezmann at the head of the attack.
Messi, then, was restricted to playing just the second 45 minutes, and even in that relatively brief period was able to make his value to his team shine as he turned in a man-of-the-match display to get the Catalans over the line.
📷 Messi: Match Snapshot
When Messi arrived on the field at the break, they were locked at 1-1. Ousmane Dembele’s opener had been cancelled out by Antonio Sanabria and it seemed that Ronald Koeman’s men might leave behind more valuable points.
Within four minutes of arriving on the field, he had shown his quality. He will not get an assist for Antoine Griezmann’s go-ahead goal, but his stepover to allow the Frenchman a tap into an empty net was amply worthy of one. Instead, Jordi Alba will be credited with the pass for his goal.
⚽ ⏱️ 61' Messi scores Barcelona’s third goal of the night. After Aissa Mandi handled the ball in the box and was dismissed, the Argentine delivered the penalty into the top corner. Claudio Bravo had earlier denied Griezmann from the spot.
⚽ ⏱️ 61' Loren had made the game tight again by getting one back for Betis but Messi emphatically put it to be with a powerful finish into the roof of the net from a challenging angle. He had been brilliantly set up by a Sergi Roberto back heel.
〽️ Messi: Rating Week-on-Week
After a relatively calm period by his illustrious standards, Messi is getting back towards his best, scoring eights and nines on a consistent basis. With a 9 FC Rating, it was his strongest display in La Liga this season, surpassing the 8.8 FC Rating he managed against Alaves last weekend.
🗝️ Key Stats
Messi match stats
Messi: What Next?
Messi faces a long trip to South America for 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Peru with Argentina. Doubtless this was behind Barcelona’s thinking in terms of resting him partially on Saturday.
It is likely to be a gruelling couple of weeks for 33-year-old before he returns to Barca to face Atletico Madrid.