Barcelona wait on Messi fitness
Lionel Messi has travelled with Barcelona for Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first leg at Bayern Munich and is expected to start the game at the Allianz Arena.
Messi missed Saturday's 1-0 La Liga win over Levante as he continued his recovery from a thigh injury. Although yet to be given the medical 'all clear' by Barca's doctors, he trained with his team-mates at Barca's Ciutat Esportiva training ground on Sunday morning, and was on the plane to Munich with the squad on Monday.
"Leo Messi took a full part in training on Sunday morning," a club statement said. "Although he has not yet been declared match fit by club doctors he has been included in the squad to face Bayern in Munich."
While midfielder Sergio Busquets and reserve keeper Jose Pinto also look to have shaken off knocks to be available for the game against the recently crowned Bundesliga champions, Barca's statement also confirmed that defenders Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol will miss the game due to injury. With Adriano Correia suspended, youngster Marc Bartra is expected to be coach Tito Vilanova's choice to start at centre-half alongside Gerard Pique.
Barca's only experienced fit centre-half told AS that he had faith that Barta, 22, was ready for such a big test.
"I do not know who will play, but I guess it will be Marc," Pique said. "It is unfortunate that Adriano is suspended, and that Puyi and Masch are injured, but we must keep things moving forward. Marc is totally prepared."
Pique denied Barta, who was rested against Levante after starting Barca's three previous La Liga games, was not forceful or decisive enough in challenges. But he accepted a suggestion that gaining experience away from the Camp Nou, as he himself had done earlier in his career at Manchester United and Real Zaragoza, could help young blaugrana players develop.
"It went well for me," Pique said. "Maybe it is good to leave Barca for a season because other things are demanded of you that help you improve. In my case I had the luck to go to England and improve in my intensity and forcefulness. And to go to Zaragoza where I understood what it was to play and not be dominating all the team. That does not happen at Barca's youth teams."
In other team news, Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez look set to flank Messi in Barca's attack against Bayern. That would mean Cesc Fabregas, who got the late winner against Levante on Saturday, and David Villa, who missed a first-half penalty in that game, would be on the bench.