PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti is focusing on winning – not fitness of Messi – going into crucial Champions League clash.
A 90th-minute Blaise Matuidi equaliser restored hope for Les Parisiens at Parc des Princes last week. But if the Ligue 1 leaders hope to join Real Madrid and Dortmund in the semi-finals a clean sheet will be vital at the Camp Nou.
It is all to play for in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
It is a tough ask of Carlo Ancelotti’s men, Barca’s two crucial away goals courtesy of Lionel Messi and Xavi giving the home-side the upper hand.
And the Catalans have an impressive home record in Europe – without a loss in Champions League football in three years.
David Beckham’s inclusion was a much discussed topic in the aftermath of the first leg, with pundits and journalists split over the veteran midfielder’s performance in the middle of the park.
Ancelotti, however, praised the former Manchester United player and has hinted towards giving him a place in the starting line-up.
The visitors will be without goalscorer Matuidi who is suspended for the clash, but can include Brazilian centre-backs Thiago Silva and Alex who return from injury.
Thiago Motta also returns to the team after a lengthy injury spell and is a possibility to play alongside Beckham in the middle, with Marco Verratti and Clement Chantome also competing for places.
With rumours surrounding the inclusion of Lionel Messi, Ancelotti claimed his team weren’t thinking about the Argentinian.
“It’s not our problem, our strategy will be the same with Messi or without. The key is to have confidence and personality in a very difficult stadium against a team that is probably the best in the world,” Ancelotti said in a press conference.
“We have to think about what we did well in the first match and try to repeat that tomorrow.”
If Barcelona beat PSG on Wednesday it will be their sixth successive semi-final and they will be en route to their third European title in five years.
Along with the injury worry of Messi, Tito Vilanova also has concerns over the fitness of veteran defender Carlos Puyol who is currently recovering from knee surgery.
One of the competition’s top goalscorers Messi, with eight goals in nine appearances, did complete a training session on Monday and is in the squad for the match, but whether he will start is still uncertain.
The loss of Messi would be a big blow but Barca are more than capable to cope without his presence, with the choice to field World Cup winners David Villa or Cesc Fabregas in the ‘false nine’ position.
Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura is confident they have enough talent to deal with his absence.
“Obviously if the best player in the world is not available then it’s a handicap for us,” Roura said to reporters.
“But we have a lot of other players who can play at a high level and we will do our best to get the right result.
“The players who can play in his position give an absolute guarantee of success.”
(Originally published on the aljazeera.com 10/04/13 – Link to article http://aje.me/ZFhuEZ )