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Lionel Messi Injury: Barca Won't Need Superstar to Advance in Champions League

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02: Lionel Messi (R) of Barcelona celebrates scoring with team-mate Alexis Sanchez during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona FCB at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2013

Lionel Messi may be able to return to the Champions League. Heck, it now looks like there is a good chance he will. It won't really matter, though, because Barcelona is going to advance past Paris Saint-Germain and reach the Champions League semifinals with or without him.

We'll start with an update on Messi's status, via The Guardian:

Barcelona have revealed that the injury suffered by Lionel Messi in Tuesday night's Champions League draw at Paris Saint-Germain is not as bad as first feared, although he will definitely miss this weekend's visit of Real Mallorca in La Liga.

Messi was removed at half-time during the 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes with a hamstring problem but in a statement this lunchtime Barcelona confirmed the 25-year-old could still play a part in the return leg at the Camp Nou next Wednesday.

The Spanish media speculate that Messi's injury will sideline him for between seven and 10 days.

Obviously, if Messi can play Barca will be that much more difficult to beat. He has 57 goals in 45 games across all competitions, after all, and is clearly the world's top player. But even without him, the odds of Barca losing at home—or tying PSG 3-3—are pretty low.

After scoring two away goals in Paris, Barca need only to win or earn either a scoreless or 1-1 tie to advance. If the teams tie 2-2 in regulation, the game would go to overtime. 

Barcelona has lost just once at home all season—to Real Madrid, of course—and tied just three times at Camp Nou in all competitions. The Catalans have only allowed two goals or more five times at home and allowed three goals just once (to Real Madrid in the lone home loss).

In other words, PSG has some work to do. It would have had a whole lot more work to do if not for the late equalizer by Blaise Matuidi.

The best way to beat Barcelona is to concede that the Catalans will dominate possession, absorb their forays into the final third and strike hard and fast on the counter-attack. When a team has to take the attack to Barca is when it gets itself in trouble.

Barcelona is going to be able to take its time, retain possession and pick its moments to poke and prod at the PSG defense. A Barca team that only needs a draw is dangerous indeed, as the best defense in all of European football is the team's uncanny ability to control possession throughout. 

And the Catalans don't need Messi to play that sort of game. Besides, if he can't play, either David Villa can move in centrally or Cesc Fabregas can reprise the false nine role he often plays for the Spanish national team.

PSG is not to be taken lightly, but Barcelona is nearly insurmountable at Camp Nou. Even if Messi doesn't play, expect the Catalans to move on to the Champions League semifinals.

 

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