Barca sweat on Messi fitness

BARCELONA are sweating on the fitness of playmaker Lionel Messi ahead of their two huge matches this week.

Messi limped off during the second half of Saturday night’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao with a thigh problem in his left leg and underwent tests yesterday to determine the extent of the injury.

The tests suggested the injury is not as bad as first feared and Barca will be relieved as they face Inter Milan in a crucial Champions League fixture in midweek before hosting bitter rivals Real Madrid in La Liga at the Nou Camp next weekend.

Messi’s injury is the latest setback for Barca, who were already without striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Yaya Toure, Eric Abidal and Rafael Marquez for Saturday night’s game.

Toure and Abidal were both missing due to swine flu.

“What can we do? Stand still? The fans must understand that we will play with what we have,” said Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola with regards to the absentees.

Barcelona defender Dani Alves, who put his side ahead against Athletic in the 54th minute before the home side drew level through Gaizka Toquero nine minutes later, admitted it would be a blow to lose Messi for a significant spell.

“It’s bad news because he is an important player for us,” the Brazilian said.

To cap a disappointing weekend for the reigning European and Spanish champions, they also lost top spot in La Liga to fierce rivals Real Madrid, who beat Racing Santander earlier on Saturday evening.

Real coach Manuel Pellegrini, still under pressure from fans, felt the narrow scoreline in his side’s 1-0 win over Santander was not a true reflection of the dominance they enjoyed in the match.

Madrid were made to sweat until the final whistle as they failed to build on Gonzalo Higuain’s 22nd-minute goal.

Pellegrini said: “We had the chances to have got a better result, but we didn’t convert them.

“Despite what the scoreline says, it was not a tight game.”

With 11 games gone they have now accumulated 28 points, scored 27 goals and conceded just eight.

Goals from David Villa, David Albelda and Carlos Marchena helped Valencia to a 3-1 win over Osasuna last night.

Sevilla survived a late Tenerife fight-back to hold on foran eighth league win of the season to consolidate third place in La Liga.

Manolo Jimenez’s side took control just after the half hour when Diego Perotti struck the opener.

Renato then doubled their lead three minutes after the break.

But there were some nervous moments for the Andalusians late on after Nino pulled a goal back with 15 minutes left.

Villarreal’s dismal start to the season is fast becoming a distant memory as Ernesto Valverde’s side continued their revival with a convincing 3-1 home victory over Real Valladolid.

Record signing Nilmar netted twice and strike partner Giuseppe Rossi also got on the scoresheet with Valladolid’s consolation through Diego Costa.

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