Guardiola: We’ll cope without Messi
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola says Lionel Messi is irreplaceable but believes the Catalan club will cope without their star man on Wednesday.
Messi was injured in a challenge by Atletico Madrid’s Tomas Ujfalusi in Barca’s 2-1 win against Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday and is set to be out for at least 10 days.
However, Guardiola says the player’s ankle injury is not too serious ahead of Wednesday’s visit of Sporting Gijon.
"Messi came off the pitch crying and in great shock," he said.
"It could have been worse, but in the dressing room the doctors ruled out a break.
"Messi has been lucky because in the images it looks as if he has done more damage than he has."
But Guardiola does not believe Ujfalusi set out to deliberately injure his player.
"I don’t think Ujfalusi went out to injure Messi – it happens in the world of football," he said.
"The Atletico player was moving fast and I don’t think there is a bad intention – these things happen and I have no complaints about the injury."
Guardiola now has the tricky task of replacing the world’s best player and the Barca coach admits that is impossible.
"Leo is irreplaceable," he said.
"But we’ll move forward. Now he needs to recover from his ankle injury. He has some other knocks and we want him to get better properly.
"If he is all right, he will travel with us for the (Champions League) game against Rubin Kazan (next week)."
With Messi sidelined, Guardiola is likely to promote Andres Iniesta to a forward role on the left and start with Pedro on the right-hand side of the club’s three-man forward line.
However, with a league match coming up away to Athletic Bilbao at the weekend and a trip to Russia also looming in midweek, the Barca coach may decide to rotate his squad.
Whoever ends up starting, the Barca coach believes he has the measure of Sporting.
"Since (Sporting coach) Manolo Preciado has been there we have played them four times," he said.
"They usually do the same things and I know him well. Every team has their peculiarities and we will try to win the three points."
Having surprisingly lost at home to promoted side Hercules in their last Primera Division match at the Nou Camp, Barca have six points from a possible nine and are currently in sixth place, three behind leaders Valencia and just one adrift of bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Sporting have four points so far, but were pegged back from 2-0 up by Bilbao at home on Saturday and lost their only away match 4-0 to Atletico on the opening weekend of the season.
Striker Nacho Novo has a hamstring injury and will miss the trip to the Nou Camp.
The former Rangers forward will also be absent for the club’s next match, against Valencia this weekend.
Preciado is set to rotate his squad and may rest several of his players for the Nou Camp clash.