- Published on Tuesday, 09 April 2013 16:00
Will Barcelona take the risk of fielding Lionel Messi in their Champions League return leg quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain at Nou Camp on Thursday (2:45am)?
Messi is still troubled by the hamstring problems suffered during the first leg last week in Paris which ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Argentina captain scored one of the goals then before forced to leave the pitch at half time.
Knowing Messi, he would love to play on Thursday, even if he is only 70 percent fit. But then Barca are expected not to take the risk.
If that is the case, Barca boss Tito Vilanova is set to play Cesc Fabregas up front – replacing Messi.
The other two front-runners should be David Villa and Alexis Sanchez.
Former Arsenal captain Fabregas normally operates as an attacking midfielder. However, since his return to Nou Camp from north London, he has also played upfront for the Catalans on several occasions.
The last was in the 5-0 bashing of Mallorca at Nou Camp in Primera Liga last Saturday. And Fabregas remarkably struck his first hattrick in his career in the process.
The other two goals were scored by Sanchez.
But PSG will be a different ball game for Barca as the French club have several quality players and still have that chance of making the last four.
It is not going to be easy – especially if the visitors score first.
Fabregas and Sanchez just have to raise the bar against PSG. They must produce better performances to help Barca, who will miss Messi big time if the Argentine is not around.
Like it or not, Messi is a vastly influential figure for Barca. The team will suffer in the attacking sense without him.
Messi is a genius who can turn matches around for Barca by producing one or two magical moments.
Barca's chances of dumping PSG are there even if Messi is not playing, though. But first Fabregas and Sanchez must produce better performances and combine well with Villa..
The Catalans, with maestros Andres Ineista and Xavi handling the midfield, are sure going to create chances for the front-runners.
A goal or two will end PSG's challenge.
So it is vital for Fabregas, Sanchez or for that matter Villa to be sharp in testing the PSG goalkeeper.
The good news is that Fabregas and Sanchez are fresh from scoring goals... never mind if it was only against Mallorca.
They should be fired up and confident to do the job in helping Barca making the last four – even without Messi.
So will Barca advance? Should be able as Iniesta is also capable of finding the net if the going gets tough.
But then again, don't be surprised either if Messi is on the bench... just in case.
FIXTURES - QUARTER-FINALS SECOND LEG
Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain
Juventus v Bayern Munich
(All Matches at 2.45am, Malaysian time)