Injury-hit Barça digs deep with Cup final in sight
MADRID - ReutersInjury-hit Barcelona will not be complaining if another ‘lucky’ black cat helps Lionel Messi find the net at the Nou Camp tonight when the team bids for a third King’s Cup final appearance in four years.
The world and European champions host Valencia in a semifinal second leg match with Carles Puyol’s header from the 1-1 draw at Mestalla last week giving them a slight edge in the tie.
Barça’s anxious 2-1 home win over Real Sociedad in La Liga at the weekend ended a run of three consecutive draws, the team’s worst run of results this season, and a rare barren spell for top scorer Messi.
It was only after a black cat streaked across their pitch on Feb. 4 that Messi finally broke his run of bad luck in front of goal, which included having a penalty saved during the first leg of the semifinal.
The World Player of the Year has netted 37 times in all competitions so far, but his team has looked more and more reliant on his goals and playmaking as a lengthening injury list took its toll.
David Villa, Pedro, Andres Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez have been laid low, forcing coach Pep Guardiola to fall back on its famed youth academy of late, but the zip has been missing from the side’s play.
“We’ll see if, little by little, we can start getting players back,” Guardiola said last week. “The players are making a titanic effort, and they have a chance to secure a place in the final for later in the season, while we turn our focus on La Liga and the Champions League.”