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Barca coach Valverde gives few hints about Messi’s fitness
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Barca coach Valverde gives few hints about Messi’s fitness

MADRID, Feb 6 : FC Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was giving little away on Tuesday about the fitness of Leo Messi when he spoke to the press ahead of his side's Copa del Rey semifinal first leg against Real Madrid.

Messi had missed the two previous days of training with a thigh injury he picked up against Valencia on the weekend, but was able to take part in Tuesday's session, 24 hours ahead of Wednesday's game.

Speaking in his press conference, which was held before training, Valverde refused to speculate on whether the Argentine would play or not.

"We have one training session to go, so we'll see how he is and if he can finish it and then we will decide if he plays," said the Barca coach, whose side has already defeated Madrid 5-1 this season without Messi in the side.

"I don't think the perspective of tomorrow will change. There is no favorite in a semi-final between Barca and Madrid, it is an open game, we have great players and among them is the man we think is the best player in the world. If Messi is fit he'll play and if he isn't in shape, he won't," commented Valverde.

"The most important thing is that the player tells you he's able to play. Science can tell you a player is fit, but if he doesn't think so, that changes everything. That's where the coach is important," he added.

Valverde said that the 5-1 from the end of October would have little influence on Wednesday's game, especially after Madrid's current run of 7 wins from their last 8 games.

"Your morale is very important and they tend to play well here. They had a few problems when they played here in the league and tomorrow we expect to see the best version of Real Madrid," he said.

The good news for Barca is that Ousmane Dembele was also able to train after suffering from a twisted ankle and flu, but Jasper Cillessen is likely to miss out through injury with Marc Andre Ter Stegen making a rare cup appearance. (UNI-XINHUA)