Barca Sweat on Messi Fitness Ahead of Tonight’s Clasico

Lionel Messi will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness ahead of Barcelona’s Copa del Rey semifinal against Real Madrid tonight, even as coach Ernesto Valverde insists he will not take any risks.

Messi is a doubt for the first leg at the Camp Nou after he felt discomfort in his thigh during Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Valencia.

The Argentinian missed training on Monday, and though he returned to the group on Tuesday, Valverde said before the session that he was yet to make a decision.

“I have not seen him yet and I don’t have an answer,” Valverde said in a press conference.

“I don’t know, there is a training session and we will see how he is, whether he can do it and whether he is in the right condition.

“Then we will decide. If he is fit, he will play and if he is not, he will not play.”

Valverde added: “It is true that sometimes we have had doubts with players and we have waited until the last moment, and it’s the same with Messi.”

Barca face a testing period of fixtures, including three Clasicos in the next month. The next two will come back-to-back, with the second leg of the Copa del Rey scheduled for February 27 before a La Liga fixture on March 2, both at the Santiago Bernabeu.

There will also be two Champions League matches against Lyon to negotiate, as well as tricky league trips to Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla.

Meanwhile, Velverde announced that speedy Frenchman Ousmane Dembele is close to recovering from an ankle injury.

“We will see how he feels, he is on track,” Valverde said. “The most important thing is the player tells you he is ready. Then you have a decision to make and you have to weigh up the pros and cons.”

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