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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 August 2018

Barcelona to make late call on Andres Iniesta fitness for Chelsea game

Iniesta sustained hamstring injury against Atletico on March 4 but midfielder took part in light training session on Monday ahead of last-16 second leg at Camp Nou

Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta during training before their Champions League game against Chelsea. Albert Gea / Reuters
Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta during training before their Champions League game against Chelsea. Albert Gea / Reuters

Barcelona will make a late decision on whether captain Andres Iniesta is fit to face Chelsea in the Uefa Champions League on Wednesday night, manager Ernesto Valverde has confirmed.

Iniesta sustained a hamstring injury against Atletico Madrid on March 4 but the midfielder took part in a light training session on Monday ahead of the last-16 second leg at the Camp Nou.

The first leg finished 1-1.

“Well, he played a big part of the training session yesterday without a problem. We’ll see how he feels today and decide,” Valverde said.

“It’s a very important game. It’s down to the player. It’s a game you can only play if you’re 100 per cent.

“It’s clear when a match like this arrives, a player tends to risk,” Valverde added. “What we have to decide is whether the risk is excessive.

Iniesta could be replaced by Paulinho in the starting line-up but the Spaniard’s absence would represent a major blow to his team’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.

“We know what Andres brings to the team, not only on the pitch but as a captain,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said.

“You give him the ball and he always knows what he has to do to create chances. Everything that he contributes is positive. He is training and we hope he plays.”

However, Lionel Messi is available again after the Argentine missed Saturday’s win at Malaga to attend the birth of his son, Ciro.

“He will be fine,” Busquets said.

“In fact he will be more motivated than what we are used to and physically he is going to be great, after having an extra game’s rest. I hope that this is perfect.”

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Busquets was also asked whether he thought Messi, who scored his team’s crucial away goal at Stamford Bridge, would ever leave Barcelona and move to the Premier League.

“He is at home here,” Busquets said. “He has a great changing room, he is winning titles, has a great project, is winning collective and individual awards.

“In the end all these positive things are difficult to find elsewhere, so the Premier League is a league that maybe you would like to play in but if you have to balance the positive and the negative out of here, it is very difficult to leave.”

Busquets also said Barcelona would settle for a goalless draw to advance to the last eight, although he added he was wary of Chelsea scoring.

“We don’t want to speculate, although 0-0 would be a good result,” Busquets said. “If they score we will be really suffering for that.”

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