Chris Smalling spoke about the challenge of stopping Lionel Messi ahead of Manchester United’s Champions League quarter-final tie against Barcelona.
"It's something to relish I think," the United centre-back said. "I say bring it on."
Well, it’s safe to say that Smalling definitely made Messi feel his presence.
The 29-year-old left Messi bleeding after absolutely flattening him in the first half.
Smalling went through the back of Messi as he challenged for the ball, giving no thought to Messi’s well-being whatsoever.
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Referee Gianluca Rocchi even deemed it a fair move, allowing play to continue before the ball was eventually put out of play.
Messi was treated by medics after suffering a blow to his nose and left eyelid but returned to the action.
Messi 'struggled to breathe' after clash
Per Spanish outlet AS, the Argentinian didn’t suffer a broken nose but instead a small deviation of the nasal septum.
And they claim Messi even struggled to breathe after the clash.
The 31-year-old was forced to breathe by mouth as a result of Smalling’s challenge.
Messi’s woes didn’t end there. AS’ report says he had a small eyebrow gap that made it ‘impossible’ for him to see correctly.
So Messi was essentially playing without being able to breathe properly and without 100 per cent vision. That could explain his subpar performance at Old Trafford.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner will undergo further tests on Thursday but it seems unlikely that he will play against Huesca at the weekend.
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde refused to blame Smalling for the incident.
“I think there was nothing in it,” Valverde said, per the Mirror.
“We will see how Leo is. Smalling bumped into him. The doctors will have a look at him tomorrow.”
Luke Shaw’s own goal in the first half handed Barcelona a 1-0 win, giving them the advantage ahead of next week’s return leg at the Camp Nou.News Now - Sport News