Leo Messi ban adds to Barça woes
MADRID - Agence France-Presse
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola will have to do without superstar forward Messi as his team faces Sporting Gijon. AP photoBarcelona must live without the inspirational presence of Lionel Messi when they tackle Sporting Gijon on March 3 as the Argentine superstar serves his first La Liga suspension.
Messi was booked in last weekend’s 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid, his fifth yellow card of the campaign.
His absence will be a huge blow to Barcelona, who trails Real Madrid by 10 points in the title race, as his value was shown in midweek when he smashed a wonderful hat-trick in Argentina’s 3-1 friendly win in Switzerland.
Real Madrid, who faces Espanyol on March 4, also has its own worries with the club facing more speculation over the future of coach Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese was spotted in London in midweek, fuelling rumors of a return to the English Premier League next season.
Espanyol will provide a stern test of Madrid’s dominance in La Liga.
Currently sitting eighth, two points from a Champions League place, the club has its own objectives. “I won there with Seville and I think we can do it again. It was a nice feeling, very intense and difficult but I think we can repeat that if we stick to our game,” said midfielder Koffi Romaric.
“We want the points for our own goals, not to do Barca a favor.”
Madrid can welcome back Turkish stars Nuri Şahin and Hamit Altıntop into its ranks.