Barcelona contemplate life without injured Lionel Messi: 'We must prove we can compete without him'

Leading scorer picked up injury against PSG in the Champions League

Lionel Messi's Barcelona team mates will take on the rare challenge of coping without their talismanic World Player of the Year when the La Liga leaders host relegation-threatened Real Mallorca on Saturday.

The Argentina forward damaged a hamstring in Tuesday's 2-2 Champions League draw at Paris St Germain and has been ruled out of the clash at the Nou Camp when Barca will seek to protect their 13-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid.

Messi's importance to the Catalan giants extends beyond his goal-scoring exploits.

As well as netting 43 of Barca's 90 goals in La Liga and eight of 17 in the Champions League this season, he has provided a total of 13 assists in the two competitions, second only to Andres Iniesta, who has one more.

The last time Barca lost Messi to injury was in November 2009 when he was out for a week and missed a Champions League Group F game at home to Inter Milan which Barca won 2-0.

It is still unclear how long he will be sidelined this time and Barca have not ruled him out of Wednesday's return leg against PSG.

Fullback Daniel Alves, who provided the exquisite pass that sent Messi clear to score on Tuesday, said the Argentine's absence was a chance for other players in the squad to step up.

"The fact that we don't have him is an incentive to prove to everyone that we have enough quality to compete without him and show that we can do it just as well as when he's here," Alves told a news conference on Wednesday.

As well as dealing with Messi's absence, coach Tito Vilanova will need to reshuffle his defence for Mallorca's visit with the injured trio of Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Adriano all unavailable.

Vilanova, who returned to Spain at the end of last month after cancer treatment in New York, may opt to drop Sergio Busquets or Alex Song back from midfield to partner Gerard Pique or deploy 22-year-old youth team product Marc Bartra.

Alves has also played at centre back in the past and offered his services again if required.

"If I remember correctly, I played in that position with Guardiola when we played a back line of three," he said.

"It's easy for me to adapt. If I'm asked to attack, then I attack; if I'm asked to defend, then I defend, and if I'm asked to do both, I do my best."

With Champions League quarter-final, second legs to negotiate during the week, Barca, Real and Malaga are all playing on Saturday.

Real host mid-table Levante (1600), while Malaga can climb above Real Sociedad into fourth and boost their chances of qualifying for Europe's elite club competition again for next season if they can beat the Basque club in San Sebastian (1400).

Atletico Madrid, a point behind Real in third, play at another Madrid-based club, Getafe, on Sunday (1700).

Atletico are fully focused on securing third spot and a place in the Champions League after last term's Europa League winners were knocked out of the competition by Russian side Rubin Kazan in February.

At the other end of the table, bottom side Deportivo La Coruna can boost their survival hopes with a win at home to fellow strugglers Real Zaragoza, who are three points above the relegation places in 17th, on Saturday (1800).

Reuters

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific