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May 14, 2013

Messi to miss rest of season

Lionel Messi looks to have played his last Barcelona game of the season due to his persistent hamstring injury, but he may return in time for Argentina's World Cup qualifiers in early June.

• Blog: Campions!

Messi limped out of Barca's 2-1 Primera Division win at Atletico Madrid on Sunday evening, having appeared to suffer a recurrence of the muscle problem that has limited his contribution to the blaugrana cause in recent months.

He then took part in Barca's La Liga title-winning celebrations on Monday afternoon before undergoing further tests on Tuesday morning. The club subsequently released a statement detailing the extent of the injury.

"The tests carried out this Tuesday morning showed that Leo Messi has a strain in the hamstring muscle of his right leg," the statement read. "The time on the sidelines is two to three weeks. His progress will determine his availability for future games. It must be remembered that the Argentine withdrew from the game against Atletico Madrid after feeling a problem in the same zone where he had previously been injured."

Messi picked up the problem on April 2 when scoring in Barca's Champions League quarter-final first leg at Paris Saint-Germain. He was back as a substitute just eight days later for the return game at the Camp Nou, helping Barca through on away goals despite clearly being less than 100% fit.

He was then given the 'all clear' by Barca's medical staff before the Champions League semi-final first leg at Bayern Munich on April 23 and completed the 90 minutes, but made little impact as the Bundesliga champions won 4-0. He then remained on the bench throughout the second leg at the Camp Nou a week later as Bayern completed a 7-0 aggregate victory.

In La Liga, Messi came off the bench to keep Barca's title challenge on track with goals away to Athletic Bilbao and at home to Real Betis. Sunday brought his first domestic start since suffering the injury, but after a subdued display he walked off the pitch midway through the second half clearly upset at the ongoing problem.

Should he now miss Barca's last three games - against Valladolid and Malaga at home, and Espanyol away - he will end the season on 46 La Liga goals, four short of the all-time record he set last season.

Argentina, currently top of the South American World Cup qualifying group, face Colombia in Buenos Aires on June 7 before travelling to Quito to take on Ecuador four days later. With Messi as captain, Alejandro Sabella's side have 24 points from 11 games and are all but assured of making next year's finals in Brazil.

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