Messi fitness in doubt ahead of cup clash against Real Madrid

Puyol backs the plan to get Xavi on board. Image PA Images

Messi suffered knock in Saturday's La Liga clash with Vancia that ended in a 2-2 draw.

He refuted the claim, though, that Messi's presence would have a major impact on the game. Fatigue will obviously be a cause of major concern as the season progresses as Valverde would want a player like Messi to be at the top of his game as the business end of the season approaches.

But Messi's importance to the side has been demonstrated since he returned from that injury in November - he has scored in each of his last nine games, including two at the weekend as Barca came from 2-0 down to draw with Valencia. "I cannot guess anything but we imagine that it can't be too bad". "We'll see the best of Real Madrid tomorrow, that's what we've seen in the last few games".

"I don't think it changes anything", he added when asked how a hypothetical Messi absence could influence proceedings.

Valverde, who had warned of the dangers of exhaustion at this stage of the season, started without Jordi Alba and was missing Sergio Busquets through suspension and Ousmane Dembele through injury.

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"In a semifinal between Barca and Madrid there's no favourite".

"We did not play well in the first half but then we showed our character and we dominated", said Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

Leo Messi was instrumental in Barcelona's Copa Del Rey matches, as usual, helping them overcome teams like Sevilla. "The most important thing is the player tells you he is ready".

The ex-Ajax ace has yet to score against Madrid in cup competitions, though, firing blanks in both legs of the Supercopa last season, despite playing a full part in both matches. The fact two teams are in such good form at the moment makes it more attractive and we're really looking forward to the game.

Real Madrid are third in the La Liga standings, but they cut their gap behind leaders Barca to eight points after beating Alaves on Sunday.

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