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Messi cleared to play

Tito Vilanova says Lionel Messi has recovered from his knee injury and will be travelling with the Barcelona team for Sunday’s match with Real Betis.

The Argentina star picked up a knock midweek and initially was a doubt for the game but his coach has insisted the forward will be fit to play.

“If there was even the smallest risk then Messi would not travel with the rest of the team,” Vilanova told a press conference.

“This means he is recovered and ready to play. However, we will assess his condition tomorrow and then decide whether he can play 90 minutes or not.”

The Barca coach said Betis are always a problem for his side and hinted that Alexis Sanchez could be close to returning after an ankle injury.

“Real Betis and (their manager) Pepe Mel cause us problems every season,” Vilanova said.

“As for Alexis (Sanchez), he has recovered faster than we thought and he is doing well physically. He just needs to get some playing time to get him up to full match fitness.”

In more good news for the Barca boss, defender Dani Alves is also close to a return after a hamstring complaint.

And Betis coach Pepe Mel believes it would be folly to suggest his side would be better off without being up against Messi as Barcelona have plenty of other stars to be aware of.

The two teams meet on Sunday with the Seville-based side in fourth place while the Catalans are at the top and are looking to make it eight consecutive away victories.

And Mel knows it will be an even tougher match with Messi in the line-up, but the Andulasians’ trainer insists he is not the only danger man.

“I would be happy if Messi starts the game. Our players are glad that the injury was not serious,” Mel said.

“Obviously if he does not play then their team is weakened, but Barca are not a one man team.”

The Betis head coach went on to suggest that he will not just sit back against the Spanish giants as it would go against their team philosophy.

“We have always tried to match them man for man and I think that is the best tactic against them. If we did not try to do that then it would feel like we have betrayed ourselves,” he said.

Sat 8 December, 2012
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