Barcelona Shouldn't Rest Lionel Messi vs. PSG If Star Is Cleared to Play
There are a number of reasons why Barcelona should be just fine if Lionel Messi can't play against Paris Saint-Germain in the return fixture of the Champions League clash between the two teams.
With two away goals in Paris, Barcelona needs only a scoreless or 1-1 draw to advance. And it's unlikely the team will either lose at home or PSG will earn a 3-3 tie, seeing as Barca has only lost once (to Real Madrid) at Camp Nou and tied there just three times this season.
There's more bad news for PSG. Barca has only allowed two goals or more five times this season at home and has only given up three goals at Camp Nou on one occasion.
The bad news doesn't end for PSG. Playing in the false nine role on Saturday, Cesc Fabregas notched a hat trick in Barcelona's 5-0 victory over Mallorca. Messi may be the world's best player, but Barcelona still has plenty of ammunition if he can't play.
But don't confuse the above with an assertion that Barcelona should simply sit Messi, even if he is cleared to play, so as to rest him for the remainder of La Liga play and the Champions League semifinals.
Barcelona may be capable of advancing without its superstar, but it would be insane to attempt doing so if Messi is available. Just because the odds of moving on are heavily in the Catalans' favor doesn't mean they should take a very talented PSG team lightly.
PSG is capable of going into Camp Nou and getting a win. Seriously. It may sound crazy—and yes, it's pretty unlikely—but any time you have talented players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Javier Pastore, Jérémy Menez, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi, you have a shot even in the most daunting of situations.
For that reason alone, Messi must play if he is available.
So where does Messi stand in his training? That remains to be seen, according to a statement on Barcelona's website (via Iain Rogers of Reuters):
The Argentine missed Saturday's 5-0 La Liga win against Real Mallorca at the Nou Camp, when his replacement in the roving forward role, Cesc Fabregas, netted a hat-trick.
"Messi did physiotherapy and recuperation followed by some fitness work on the pitch," Barca said in a statement on their website (www.fcbarcelona.es) without specifying whether he would be available to face PSG.
Will Barcelona advance if Messi can't play?
My guess? He'll play. The injury doesn't seem to be as serious as initially feared, and given that Barca has a 13-point cushion in La Liga play, Messi can always rest during the team's next league game if he isn't 100 percent healthy.
I can't imagine Messi won't try to play against PSG, even if he only comes on as an emergency substitution, which might not be the worst plan of attack for Barcelona. Better yet, if he starts the game and Barca scores an early goal, Barcelona could always look to take him out at the half if he's hobbling.
If he's available, though, he must play. It's one thing to face Mallorca without Messi. It's quite another to play PSG without him. Expect to see him on the pitch this Wednesday.
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