Barca sweat over Messi fitness
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Lionel Messi has gone from being the first name on Barcelona's team sheet to the last, as they await a late fitness test ahead of Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Paris St Germain. The World Player of the Year is recovering from a hamstring strain picked up in Paris last week, when he scored in the 2-2 first leg draw, though Barca proved they could survive without him by thrashing Real Mallorca 5-0 in La Liga on Saturday.
Despite fielding a weakened side, the leaders ran riot at the Nou Camp with a hat-trick from Cesc Fabregas and two from Alexis Sanchez but PSG are a tougher proposition than La Liga's basement side. Favourites Barca are chasing a fourth Champions League crown in eight seasons and leading marksman Messi usually provides the cutting edge on the big stage by setting up and scoring goals. His mere presence provides a psychological lift to his side and a big headache for opponents.
The Argentine did some fitness work on Sunday and Spanish media reported he was one of a group of players who turned up to work on Monday despite the squad having been given the day off. With La Liga all but in the bag, as Barca lead second-placed Real Madrid by 13 points with eight games left, coach Tito Vilanova may be inclined to risk his prize asset against PSG.
Vilanova also has to decide who will partner Gerard Pique in the centre of the defence as Javier Mascherano is out with a knee injury and Carles Puyol is a doubt as he recovers from knee surgery. Inexperienced former youth-teamer Marc Bartra performed well alongside Pique on Saturday but versatile full back Adriano Correia is close to fitness again and midfielder Alex Song could even be drafted in at the back. "We'll see what options we have against PSG," Barca's assistant coach Jordi Roura said.