Barcelona sweating over Lionel Messi's fitness ahead of crunch cup clash with Real Madrid
Barcelona say they will "wait until the last moment" to determine if Lionel Messi will be fit to face Real Madrid in Wednesday's Copa del Rey semi-final first leg against arch rivals Real Madrid.
Messi, 31, has been named in Barcelona's squad for the cup tie but has trained just once since suffering an injury to his right thigh during Saturday's 2-2 draw with Valencia, during which he scored both of his side's goals as they came back from two goals down.
Perhaps crucially, Messi was not withdrawn from the game despite concerns about the muscle injury with boss Ernesto Valverde indicating afterwards that he didn't think the injury was "too bad."Also on rt.com ‘As long as there’s a shred of hope’: Messi makes impassioned plea for Sala search to resume
However, the Argentine talisman was only deemed fit to return to light training on the eve of the first leg clash with Real Madrid.
"It is true that sometimes we have had doubts with players and we have waited until the last moment," said Ernesto Valverde of Messi's availability.
"It's the same with Messi. I'm not big on taking risks when there are a lot of games ahead of us."
The fist leg represents the first of three El Clasico's in a span of just 25 days. The semi-final second leg will is scheduled for February 27, while a La Liga fixture follows soon after on March 2.
Barcelona's preparation for the Copa del Rey semi-final opener have been marred by a mini injury crisis which has seen Ousmane Dembele, Jasper Cillessen, Samuel Umtiti and Rafinha all ruled out.
Messi has been in typically imperious form this season, netting nearly 30 goals in all competitions but Valverde says that Barcelona have enough firepower in their arsenal to overcome Real Madrid even if their captain isn't on the field.
"In a semi-final between Barca and Madrid there's no favorite. The tie is wide open, we have really good players. We have the player we believe is the best in world but they also have great players. If Messi's ready he will play, if he's not he won't."Also on rt.com 'What I wanted the most is a new metatarsal': Tearful Neymar reveals birthday wish (VIDEO)