Barcelona are sweating over the fitness of superstar Lionel Messi after he was stretchered off in the Champions League draw against Benfica on Wednesday night.
The Camp Nou held its breath as medics rushed to the 25-year-old clutching his knee on the turf late in the scoreless draw against the Portuguese side.
Many were hoping to see Messi equal or break the 40-year-old record for goals scored in a calendar year, set by legendary German striker Gerd Muller, and manager Tito Vilanova gave the Argentine 30 minutes at the end of the match.
Barcelona had already qualified as group winners for the knockout stages so Vilanova came in for some criticism after playing Messi when the match was a dead rubber.
Messi is currently just one goal behind the record of 84 and would have five games to get the two goals he needs to break it, if the injury he suffered is not too serious.
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol appeared worried but hopeful when speaking after the game, indicating how crucial Messi is the Catalan club’s game by confirming his health is the biggest concern for all at Camp Nou for the moment.
“Lionel Messi is undergoing some tests, but hopefully it is not anything [serious],” he said.
“Clearly this is the worst news of the night and hopefully he will be back with us at 100 per cent.”
Vilanova defended the decision to field the Barça legend, claiming the half an hour he was supposed to have was part of a fitness plan and that an injury could occur any day in training.
“Messi playing 30 minutes was talked through, it was part of his physical training programme,” said the manager.
“You can also get injured in training. I gave him the last 30 minutes because it was a good workout and he loves competing. I would do it again.”
Their next La Liga fixture in on Sunday away to Real Betis and Messi will not know if he can play until result s from further tests by Barcelona medical staff.
Vilanova, however, was confident the knock was just bruising and nothing serious after an initial assessment from the team doctor.
“Messi was a bit worried, which is normal when you don't know what it is. After the first tests by the doctors, he was calm,” he added.
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