Superstar Lionel Messi must be fully fit in order for Barcelona to advance past Bayern Munich in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League opening semifinal fixture.
Before suffering a hamstring injury in the first leg of the quarterfinals against Paris Saint-Germain, he had scored the club's first goal, but his absence at halftime caused Barca to draw 2-2.
it looked as though the Catalans were in danger of not advancing to the last four without Messi in the starting XI for the second contest.
However, their most important player returned for the last match, helping set up the equalizing goal that allowed Barca to get through on the away goals rule despite the tied aggregate score at three apiece.
Messi missed his team's most recent two games in La Liga, but returned to training on Friday, which is wonderful news for the Barcelona faithful.
The striker is simply brilliant, and Messi is already one of the greatest world footballers ever at the ripe age of 25. It will take all the magic he can muster—hopefully while being somewhere near 100 percent health-wise—for the Catalans to topple their German opponents on the road.
Although Barcelona's roster has a ton of firepower, the amount of talent on Bayern Munich is at least somewhat comparable. Manager Jupp Heynckes has an incredible amount of flexibility because of his personnel, and has been pushing all the right buttons for the Bavarians.
The reigning Bundesliga champions showcased their dominance in smashing Hannover 6-1 in their Saturday's league match, per Goal.com's Tom Webber. Key to the success was the way Claudio Pizarro stepped up in lieu of injured star midfielder Toni Kroos, as he scored two goals and assisted in two more.
Mario Gomez proved he will be able to fill in at striker very well whenever Mario Mandzukic exits the pitch against the Catalans, as he scored back-to-back goals at 40' and 62' on Saturday.
Can Barcelona afford to have Lionel Messi come off the bench in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals?
That commanding possession allows Bayern Munich to play outstanding defense. In the month of April, the Bavarians have given up just one goal, maintaining a clean sheet for four matches before a late, inconsequential goal by Hannover's Andre Hoffmann.
Considering how stingy the Germans have been in allowing a minimal amount of goals recently, it is all the more vital that Messi plays the majority of the match—especially with it being in Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena.
The aforementioned bench appearance in the last Champions League match is an encouraging sign, but Messi's fitness is vital if Barcelona is meant to ultimately win a fourth trophy in this prominent tournament under his leadership.