Barca coach to take late decision over Messi fitness

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Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi plays with a ball during a training session at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona on Saturday, on the eve their Spanish League footbal match ‘El Clasico’ Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona. AFP PHOTO

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi plays with a ball during a training session at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona on Saturday, on the eve their Spanish League footbal match ‘El Clasico’ Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona. AFP PHOTO

MADRID: Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has said he will wait until an hour before Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) mammoth clash with Real Madrid before deciding whether Lionel Messi will start on his return from a two-month injury layoff.

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Messi has been sidelined since damaging knee ligaments against Las Palmas on September 26, but is expected to feature at the Santiago Bernabeu after taking a full part in training this week.

“Messi’s feelings since he rejoined the group have been positive and he is working at the rhythm of the group, but we still have to train today and then we will talk,” Enrique said on Friday.

“It is evident he isn’t 100 percent physically, but, whether he plays or not, the great news is that he has recovered.

“We will decide if Leo plays an hour before the game.”

Victory would take Barca six points clear of Madrid at the top of the table. However, Enrique rejected claims his side could strike a decisive blow in the title race after just 12 games.

“For me this game will not be definitive for La Liga although it is very nice if you win at the home of your biggest rivals. It is the best scenario for a Barca player.”

The match will be played under unprecedented security measures after a string of deadly attacks in Paris a week ago that killed 130 people.

A total of 1,200 police officers will be deployed around the stadium, six times the usual number for a game classified as presenting a high security risk.

However, Enrique insisted he could only concentrate on the game and leave the job of ensuring the match passes off safely to the experts.

“What worries me is what is happening on a worldwide level,” he added.

“I concentrate on what happens on the field and the security is in the hands of the specialists.”

AFP

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