La Liga news

Messi could be set for Barca return

April 19, 2013
By Dermot Corrigan, Spain Correspondent

Lionel Messi could return for Barcelona's La Liga game against Levante on Saturday, but no risks will be taken to ensure he is ready for Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first leg at Bayern Munich.

Lionel Messi
PA PhotosLionel Messi has a hamstring problem

Messi took part in Friday morning's training session with the squad at Barca's Ciutat Esportiva, as did midfielder Sergio Busquets, who has missed previous sessions with a slight knock picked up earlier in the week.

Assistant coach Jordi Roura told reporters at his press conference afterwards that a final decision on whether Messi will face Levante would be taken after training on Saturday morning,

"We all know how Messi is," Roura said. "He always wants to be out there and participate. He has been working with total intensity to recover. We will see how he is tomorrow morning after training and decide then with Tito [Vilanova]."

Vilanova is set to again rotate his squad for Saturday's game, with this season's La Liga crown all but sewn up. Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba could come back in after missing last Sunday's 3-0 win at Real Zaragoza, with Xavi Hernandez, Dani Alves and Cesc Fabregas among those who may get a break this weekend.

Thiago Alcantara and Cristian Tello, who both impressed against Zaragoza, are likely to keep their places against Juan Ignacio Martinez's side, who are safely in mid-table and have little left to play for this season. Barca B goalkeeper Oier Olazabal will be on the bench, perhaps alongside Messi, as regular back-up Jose Pinto continues to be troubled by a back problem.

Roura says whichever side that Barca send out will be fully focused on getting three more points to seal the La Liga title as soon as possible.

"La Liga is not won yet," he said. "Each game is important. We still need nine points [from seven games] to be champions. We always play with the same motivation and intensity. All the players in the squad have shown they are here for a reason. We will put out the best team to play the game."

Looking forward to the two legs against the recently-crowned Bundesliga champions, Roura revealed injured defenders Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano could make the return game on May 1.

"Puyi will not be in Munich [next Tuesday]," he said. "It will be very tight for the second leg. Mascherano is recovering well. He could also make the second leg, but again it will be close."

Asked about a suggestion made on Thursday evening by Barca board spokesperson Toni Freixa that Tito Vilanova was a better coach and person than predecessor Pep Guardiola, Roura said he doubted Freixa had intended to talk anybody down.

"I am not here to compare anyone," he said. "I think he wanted to praise the work that we have done this season, not to discredit what happened before. Among other things, because we were there then too."