‘Messi-dependent’ Barcelona wait on great man’s fitness

Star man included in squad to meet PSG but doubts persist over fitness

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring the opening goal during the first leeg in Paris. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring the opening goal during the first leeg in Paris. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images


Lionel Messi has been included in the Barcelona squad to face Paris Saint-Germain in tonight’s Champions League quarter-final second leg but he faces a wait to find out if he will start at Camp Nou. A final decision is not expected until this morning following the hamstring injury he picked up in last week's first leg.

Meanwhile, David Beckham was given hope that, in the absence of Blaise Matuidi, he will be included. The PSG manager, Carlo Ancelotti, defended the former England captain despite criticism after the first leg, insisting: "He has a good chance of playing."

Their Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic told CNN: "I think he has been very important for us. In the situation that we are in now, the club has been changing from a normal club to a top club, and Beckham gives you some kind of confidence.

“ He has the responsibility, on the pitch and off the pitch, to lead the way for these two months, which is very important. He has a quality, a big quality; he has a touch that I haven't seen many players have. And he is very elegant when he plays."

Barcelona's coach, Tito Vilanova, is again expected to be in the dugout as he was last Tuesday, having returned from two months of cancer treatment in the United States. However, it was his assistant, Jordi Roura, who faced the media yesterday and he could have been forgiven for losing patience. The first question was about Messi and so was the last. In between, he was mostly asked about Messi. Just as Andres Iniesta, Maxwell and Ancelotti were. Iniesta admitted that Barcelona are "Messi-dependent."

Even in his absence, the Argentinian was present. The good news was that he was subsequently present in Barcelona's squad but with a 2-2 draw from the first leg he could begin on the bench, to be called upon if needed. When the official list was released, Messi's name, like that of Adriano and Pedro, was followed by an asterix, denoting a player who had not yet been given the all-clear by medical staff.

His likely replacement in the false number nine role is Cesc Fabregas, who played there against Mallorca on Saturday and scored the first hat-trick of his career.

Ancelotti insisted that PSG's approach will not be determined by Messi's availability, which is probably more than can be said for Barcelona. "Without doubt there is Messi-dependence in the sense that he is fundamental for us," said Iniesta. "But there is not Messi-dependence in the sense that this is a team game and we have very good players who can perform well. “
Guardian Service