Messi key to Barcelona's comeback hopes

Barcelona admit any chance the Catalans have of overturning a 4-0 first-leg defeat to Bayern Munich in their Champions League semi-final return tonight depends very much on the fitness of Lionel Messi.

The World Player of the Year looked out of sorts in Munich last week as an energetic display from the hosts tore Barca to pieces, but Messi did come off the bench to score a wonderful individual goal and set-up a second for Alexis Sanchez in Barca’s 2-2 draw with Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Lionel Messi. Pic/Getty Images

And Barcelona assistant manager Jordi Roura believes Messi has started to find his feet again after being troubled by a hamstring injury for the past month.

“Messi is the best player in the world and obviously when you don’t have him you notice it. He makes the difference,” he told a press conference after the Athletic game.

“He will continue with his recuperation after the injury. He was very good today and we hope that little by little he arrives at his best level. He will continue improving and the better Leo is the more chances we will have against Bayern.”

Despite Messi not being at 100 per cent, Barca’s principal problem in the first-leg was their defending and manager Tito Vilanova has even more problems at the back with Jordi Alba suspended for today’s clash.

Adriano does return from suspension and is expected to replace Alba, however the biggest doubt remains who will partner Gerard Pique in central defence.

Javier Mascherano returned to light training on Monday well ahead of the schedule planned for him after suffering a lateral knee ligament injury against Paris Saint-Germain on April 2 and he could be thrown straight back into the side, although Vilanova also has the option of using either Eric Abidal or Alex Song.

Bayern by contrast will be able to welcome back striker Mario Mandzukic after he too missed the first-leg through suspension.

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