Barca look to Messi to inspire fightback

MADRID - Lionel Messi has often said personal accolades are secondary to the fortunes of the team and Barcelona’s Argentina forward would probably swap all four of his World Player of the Year awards for a comeback success against AC Milan on Tuesday.
Barcelona foraward Lionel Messi was largely kept quiet in the first leg at San Siro.  Net photo.
Barcelona foraward Lionel Messi was largely kept quiet in the first leg at San Siro. Net photo.

Round of 16 2nd Leg
Today
Barcelona  vs  AC Milan 21:00 SS3
Schalke 04 vs Galatasaray 21:00 SS5

MADRID - Lionel Messi has often said personal accolades are secondary to the fortunes of the team and Barcelona’s Argentina forward would probably swap all four of his World Player of the Year awards for a comeback success against AC Milan on Tuesday.

Barca’s hopes of a third Champions League crown in five years are hanging by a thread after Milan surprised them 2-0 at the San Siro in last month’s last-16, first leg.

If the pre-tournament favourites are to get past the Serie A side into the quarterfinals, Messi will surely have to be on song.

He and his teammates will also need to reverse a slump in key games after they were beaten twice in five days by arch rivals Real Madrid following the reverse in Italy.

Messi, well shackled by Milan in the first leg, claimed another record on Saturday when he came off the bench and scored for a 17th consecutive La Liga game in a 2-0 victory for the leaders at home to bottom side Deportivo La Coruna.

It was his 40th goal of the La Liga campaign and his 51st in 41 appearances in all competitions, including five in the Champions League. He is the top scorer in Europe’s elite club competition the past four seasons.

Clean sheet

A significant positive from Barca’s La Liga win on Saturday was that they kept a clean sheet for the first time in 14 outings and a repeat performance will likely be crucial on Tuesday at the Nou Camp.

Barca also rested a slew of key players to keep them fresh for the Milan showdown.

Assistant coach Jordi Roura, standing in for Tito Vilanova while he undergoes cancer treatment in New York, deployed Messi only for the final half hour.

He gave Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets a run-out in the second half but centre back Gerard Pique, fullback Jordi Alba and forward Pedro did not feature.

Barca are also expecting to have playmaker Xavi available after he returned to training this week following a minor muscle strain.

Milan warmed up for the trip to Spain with a hard-fought 2-0 win at Serie A rivals Genoa on Friday.

Victory came at a cost, however, and the club said on Sunday goalscorer Giampaolo Pazzini had sustained a micro-fracture in his right fibula and was out of the Barca game.

Barcelona have not lost a European tie at home for more than three years and knocked Milan out in last season’s quarterfinals, their 16th meeting, and in the 2005-06 semifinals.

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