Griezmann still waiting for Messi connection at Barca

Barcelona (AFP) –


Antoine Griezmann has found it "difficult" to connect with Lionel Messi at Barcelona so far, while coach Ernesto Valverde admits he will take no risks with the injured Argentine against Inter Milan on Wednesday.

Messi has started only one game so far this season but is close to recovering from a thigh strain ahead of Barca's second Champions League group match at Camp Nou.

Griezmann has had to carry the mantle in Messi's absence but is yet to hit top form after joining the club from Atletico Madrid for 120 million euros ($131 million) last summer. He has three goals in eight matches so far.

There were also doubts around how he would be welcomed after key players were believed to have been unimpressed by how the Frenchman rejected a move to Barcelona in 2018.

"In the end, Messi is not someone who talks a lot and neither do I so it has been difficult," Griezmann said in a press conference on Tuesday.

"I have already given him some mate (tea) and we are heading in the right direction. He has been injured a lot so it is difficult to establish and improve this connection.

"But we are good guys, two good people, and I am here to help anyone on the team."

Messi missed Barcelona's pre-season with a calf injury sustained at the start of August and then strained his thigh in his first start back against Villarreal on September 24.

Valverde suggested both Messi and Ousmane Dembele, who has a hamstring problem, are unlikely to face Inter but the duo will have a better chance of playing at home to Sevilla on Sunday.

"We have to wait for training," Valverde said on Tuesday. "Ousmane has done very little and Leo has done a bit more than half-training so we will see today if he can finish it.

"I don't know if we will be able to count on them against Inter. But I reiterate we will not be taking any risks."

- 'We have to pull in same direction' -

Valverde confirmed that Ansu Fati (knee), Jordi Alba (thigh) and Samuel Umtiti (foot) are all injured as Barcelona look to continue their mini-resurgence against an Inter side that sits top of Serie A, with six wins out of six.

After beating Villarreal 2-1 on Saturday, Gerard Pique called for unity after suggesting articles critical of the players in the Catalan press had come from Barcelona's board.

Valverde said there was "nothing unusual" about the atmosphere in the dressing room, adding: "We have to try to pull in the same direction especially if controversies come from outside, not inside the club."

Griezmann said: "It is like all dressing rooms, there are some players that when they speak, people listen more but it is nothing out of the ordinary."

The 28-year-old was used in a front two at Atletico but has played both on the left and as the lone striker in an attacking trio by Valverde.

"I am learning a different philosophy of playing and a different position," said Griezmann. "You have to learn, improve, adjust your movements. In two months, you cannot have it 100 percent.

"It will come and I know my teammates want the best out of me. I want that too, I demand the best of myself every day and I think I'm on the right track."