Barcelona and its fans received their first bit of excellent news on Sunday, as it was announced that Lionel Messi was named to the squad set to play Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday.
From the Barcelona website:
Leo Messi took a full part in training on Sunday morning and although he has not yet been declared match fit by Club doctors he has been included in the squad to face Bayern in Munich. Mascherano and Puyol will miss the game due to injury while Adriano is suspended. However, reserve team goalkeeper Oier will make the trip.
As the Barcelona report notes, there is no guarantee that Messi will be cleared to play. Still, after coming off the bench against Paris Saint-Germain two weeks ago and sitting out the last two La Liga games, it's hard to imagine Messi not being available off the bench at the very least.
Plus, Messi's participated in training, and if the following comment from Cesc Fabregas is any indication, he's ready to play.
The former Arsenal captain has been playing as a false No 9 in Messi's absence but said: "Lionel is ready to play in Munich. He is the most important player of the team. We feel safer with him, as was shown against PSG. Leo offers us things no other player does. If I drop out because of Leo I would accept this because he is so important."
You've got to love those comments from Fabregas. Sure, everyone knows Messi is the best player in the world. Obviously, Barcelona is better with Messi in the lineup, but it is still nice to hear players willing to sacrifice their own playing time for the good of the team, especially players of the caliber of Fabregas.
And make no mistake about it, Barca desperately needs Messi against Bayern Munich, especially at Allianz Arena.
Few teams have been better than the German side this season. Bayern Munich has already wrapped up the Bundesliga title and has just three losses in all competitions this year, though two of those losses have come at home.
Still, Barcelona doesn't need a win here. An away goal and a draw would suit the Catalans just fine, and few teams are better suited to handling the Bayern Munich pressure or slowing down the team's devastating attack than Barca, who will look to tiki-taka the Germans and slow the game's pace.
With or without Messi, Barcelona will look to clog the middle of the pitch, use a heavy dose of passing as a form of defense and try to keep Bayern Munich from having too many opportunities to attack on the counter.
But trying to find the back of the net without Messi is a whole different story. Away goals are vital in this tournament, and versus PSG, Barcelona looked like a team lacking its cutting edge in the attacking third without Messi.
Which team will advance to the championship game?
For as much talent as Barcelona has, you can't underestimate the impact of Messi on this team.
If nothing else, he'll reprise his role from the PSG game, starting on the bench and entering the game if Barca needs a goal in the second half. But I would be very, very surprised if Messi didn't get the start on Tuesday.