Messi dismisses ‘crisis’ talk
Barcelona look to bounce back from their midweek Champions League setback against Arsenal when they host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
David Villa gave Barca a first-half lead only for the Gunners to hit back through Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin to take a 2-1 lead into the second leg.
And back home the Catalans lead fierce rivals Real Madrid by just five points after last weekend’s disappointing 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon.
Following that result and the defeat in London, Madrid-based sports papers have already begun to talk of a crisis at Barca, but Lionel Messi says his side will not be affected by mind games.
"We know they (Madrid) are waiting for us, that they want us to start losing, to get nervous, but we won’t fall into their trap," Messi said.
"We know what we’re all about and we have been showing that for years."
All of Barca’s five defeats this season have come when captain Carles Puyol has been missing and the defender will be absent again through injury, along with young midfielder Jeffren Suarez.
Villa should start, however, after shaking off a knock.
Athletic Bilbao lost 1-0 at Mallorca last weekend, but the Basques had won their previous four Primera Division matches and remain in fifth place ahead of Sunday’s game at the Nou Camp.
Athletic drew 0-0 here in the Copa del Rey earlier this season and midfielder Carlos Gurpegi believes defensive solidity will be the key for his side in Sunday’s game.
"If we can frustrate them and stop them from scoring, we can look for our front players and try to hurt them on the break," he said.
Gurpegi returns from suspension, but Ibai Gomez and Jon Aurtenetxe miss out through injury.
Ustaritz Aldekoaotalora has shaken off a knock and is likely to start.