Messi injury spearheads Barcelona’s mounting European concerns
At first glance, a 2-2 draw away to PSG looks a very positive result to carry into the second leg of a Champions League quarter-final.
But in consideration of the mounting injury woes Barcelona are currently dealing with, Blaise Matuidi’s late leveller for the Parisiens looks as though it may be of extra significance.
Because in addition to veteran defender Carles Puyol and adept centre-half cover Javier Mascherano’s absence for the second leg, Lionel Messi now appears certain to miss out too.
The Argentine superstar, with 57 goals to his name in all competitions this season, opened the scoring at the Parc des Princes, but had to be withdrawn at half time due to a hamstring injury.
Initial fears signal he will miss at least three weeks, which will see him ruled out of Barca’s return leg with PSG, which is sure to curtail the Catalans’ chances of progression somewhat.
Tito Vilanova’s men remain 11/8 favourites to lift the Champions League trophy, but Messi’s vast importance to the side cannot be underestimated, and his absence is sure to deter some punters from backing the Spanish giants.
Indeed, this season, the 25-year-old has been responsible for registering 47 of Barca’s 90 league goals, whilst he has also been accountable for just less than half of their 17 European strikes this season.
In addition to the troubles in front of goal that will come in light of Messi’s injury though, the hosts’ defensive frailties are also likely to prove a huge issue at the Nou Camp.
With Puyol and Mascherano set to be sidelined for some time yet, Gerard Pique will be the only adequate first-team central defender at Vilanova’s disposal when Carlo Ancelotti’s men travel to Spain.
And given the problems that Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s sheer physicality caused Barca in the first leg, it is feasible to suggest that a weakened backline could again succumb to Parisian pressure.
Therefore, in the absence of global superstar Messi, and a natural central defensive pairing, the Catalans are perhaps currently best watched at 11/8 to claim the European Cup.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.