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Real Madrid

Cesc: Barca must cover missing Messi

Cesc Fabregas says he and his Barcelona teammates must take more responsibility with Lionel Messi injured for Tuesday evening’s Champions League group game at Celtic.

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Messi hurt a thigh muscle in Saturday’s 2-0 La Liga win at Almeria and faces another two to three weeks on the sidelines in what is becoming an increasingly frustrating season for Barca’s number 10.

Fabregas, who is likely to take on the Argentine’s usual false-nine role at Celtic Park, said other blaugrana players would need to step up in their talisman’s absence.

“Messi is the best player in the world, he makes the difference in games, but he is not here and we cannot do anything about that,” Fabregas said. “Without Messi we must take responsibility as he is the player who scores more goals, makes more assists.

“When he is not there, everyone else must take a step forward, above all in attack. Tomorrow will be a big test as Leo will not be with us."

Fabregas suggested that Neymar, playing his first competitive game on British soil, was another Barca player who might like the challenge of showing what he can do.

“Ney is a very talented player, very quick in small spaces, who can easily get away from defenders,” Fabregas said. “He is a star in the making, he already is a star, but he will have a big say in the future of football.

“In the future we will speak of him as one of the greats. I do not see him worried by the pressure, which is very important for a young player. [Celtic] will sit back, with lots of players behind the ball, so he will be an important player for us.”

Cesc said he respected Celtic’s formidable home record, which includes last year’s famous 2-1 win over his own side.

“We know that playing at Celtic Park is always a difficult game, it does matter who is playing, they always make it very tough for us,” he said. “They did that for Arsenal too [in August 2009’s play-off game]. The fans pressure the opponent, they make it more difficult, every corner is half a goal.”

There was also praise for Celtic coach Neil Lennon, who Fabregas said reminded him of Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone.

“Lennon is a great coach, I remember him a lot as a player,” he said. “He reminds me a lot of 'Cholo' Simeone at Atletico. They are very similar coaches - who transmit confidence and belief to their players, and are always jumping around on the sideline. And also pressuring the referees. But I admire that, as football is about passion.”


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