Messi, Mascherano injured as Barca play draw in Paris

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Paris, April 3 (IANS) FC Barcelona have paid a heavy price for the 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie away to Paris Saint Germain after star player Lionel Messi had to be substituted at the halftime break and defender Javier Mascherano too being stretchered off late in the game.

Goals from Messi and Xavi Hernandez twice put Barca ahead in Paris but on a night full of misfortune for the Catalan side they were pegged back by goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovich, who was two yards offside, and a last minute equaliser from Blaise Matuidi, whose shot took a wicked deflection from Barca substitute Marc Bartra, reports Xinhua.

Bartra was in the pitch after Javier Mascherano had to leave the pitch injured and it was confirmed soon after the final whistle that the Argentinean had suffered a torn knee ligament which will keep him out of action for around six weeks.

It is a heavy blow for Barcelona, who are struggling for central defenders given that Carles Puyol will be sidelined for another month, if not more, following a knee operation.

Meanwhile, Adriano Coreira is still sidelined after suffering the latest of a run of muscle injuries a fortnight ago and unless Eric Abidal, who was on the subs’ bench at the weekend, is able to put the finishing touches to his recovery following a liver transplant over a year ago, they will have to rely on Gerard Pique and youngster Marc Bartra for the return leg and the possible semi-final.

However, Mascherano may not be the most important injury worry for Barca given that Messi also had to leave the game. The striker, who opened the scoring for Barca and who has scored 43 goals in Spain’s BBVA Primera Liga, pulled up late in the first half with a hamstring problem and didn’t appear for the second period.

Early tests confirmed a hamstring injury and it is virtually impossible for him to recover for next week’s return leg, while questions must be raised as to whether or not he will have recovered for the semi-final if Barca are able to make it through to the last four.

Messi had not suffered a muscle injury since 2008 but perhaps he paid the price for his efforts on international duty with Argentina, which culminated in a difficult game at a high altitude in Bolivia a week ago, on the back of a long domestic season with his club.

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