Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman praised his side for an excellent second half performance as they beat Betis 5-2 on Saturday and explained Lionel Messi's absence.

Messi had not begun a Barca game on the bench since a defeat by Granada in September 2019 and Koeman said his captain was feeling a bit of discomfort after Wednesday's 2-1 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League.

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"I congratulate my players' great level, especially in the second half," he said.

Koeman had dropped Messi to the bench, leading to speculation over the reason for his absence.

"Since yesterday we were talking about some discomfort he was feeling since the game and we decided that the best thing was to leave him on the bench in case we needed him," Koeman said.

"He would have started if he hadn't had any discomfort. We all know who he is and I don't have any doubts about him, I see him work every day. He didn't start but he was very important in the second half."

Defender Jordi Alba acknowledged the importance of Messi's presence in the second half.

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"The whole squad prefers it when Messi is on the pitch because he obviously gives you more options to win the game," said Barca's Alba.

"Today he came on and changed the game, he is a different player to everybody else and we were a different team when he was on the pitch.

"The manager made a decision to not start him and in the second half he really helped us to go on and win the game.

"We all prefer it when he is on the pitch, we're better with him around."

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