Lionel Messi to sit out Zaragoza trip
Lionel Messi has been left out of Barcelona's squad for the Spanish league game at Real Zaragoza as part of the leaders' plans to rest several first-choice players to prepare for the final stretch of the season.
Barcelona holds a 13-point lead in the league. The first leg of the Champions League semifinals is at Bayern Munich on April 23. Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and goalkeeper Jose Pinto will also miss Sunday's match.
Messi injured his right hamstring last week and went on as a substitute on Wednesday while still not fully fit to help Barcelona get past Paris Saint-Germain to reach the Champions League semifinals. The club says Busquets hurt his groin and Pinto has back pain, while the coaches decided to rest Iniesta and Alba.
The Argentine international made a game-changing impact from the bench in the second half, playing a key part in Pedro's equalizer as Barca squeaked through on away goals. Messi appeared to be limping towards the end of the match but assistant coach Jordi Roura said he was not seriously injured. "If he has a little niggle it's not important, Leo is one of those players that knows how to look after himself," said Roura after the match.
Manolo Jimenez's Zaragoza side sit just one point off the relegation zone after a morale-sapping defeat at the hand of fellow relegation-fighters Deportivo La Coruna last week.
The visit of the runaway league leaders is hardly the test Zaragoza would have chosen as they bid to snap a 14-game winless run in all competitions, but nevertheless defender Alvaro Gonzalez has called for optimism despite the pain of last week's 3-2 loss at Deportivo.
"We had the chance to strike a blow in our bid for survival but it wasn't meant to be," he said.
Gonzalez said his team must take their chances against Barca and called for the same attitude they showed in their impressive 1-1 home draw against Real Madrid on March 30.
"Everyone said it would be very difficult for us against Real Madrid and we snatched a point, so why can't we do the same against Barcelona?" said Jimenez.
The Associated Press was used in this report.