Messi fit for Barca: Valverde
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has said Lionel Messi is in “perfect” condition to face Manchester United in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday.
It is four years since Barca last reached the semis of Europe’s premier competition but a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford makes them firm favourites ahead of the return at Camp Nou. Messi was among 10 players rested for the goalless draw against Huesca on Saturday after a hefty challenge from Chris Smalling last week left him with a swollen nose and cheek. “He is fine,” said Valverde at a press conference on Tuesday.
“He has recovered perfectly from the blow he suffered. He was fine after a couple of days. “It is true that during the match he was a little stunned but he is in perfect condition and does not have any problems ahead of tomorrow’s game.” Valverde said Ousmane Dembele could also feature after he played for 67 minutes against Huesca, having recovered from a hamstring injury. “I don’t know to what extent because he has been out for four weeks,” Valverde said.
“But he is ready to play.” Barcelona has lost only one home game in the Champions League in 10 years but United will take hope from their last 16 comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain when they overturned a 2-0 first-leg defeat to go through. “That memory from PSG will help the players and us as a team, that we know we can turn things around,” coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said. “Barcelona here at the Nou Camp is a difficult prospect but the memory will live with the players, it’s not long ago.” Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is confident his team can avoid a repeat.
“The good thing is we play differently to PSG,” he said. “But United are dangerous and the result from the first leg is dangerous, it is a very small advantage.”