Barcelona must move on after Messi injury, says Guardiola

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The Independent Football

Injured Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is almost irreplaceable but the Spanish champions are determined to put his temporary absence behind them, coach Pep Guardiola said on yesterday.

Messi will miss Barça's La Liga matches at home to Sporting Gijon tonight and at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday after he was felled by a late tackle from Atletico Madrid defender Tomas Ujfalusi at the weekend and sustained ankle ligament damage. The Fifa World Player of the Year, who scored the opening goal in Barça's 2-1 win at the Vicente Calderon, is also doubtful for the Champions League match at Rubin Kazan next week.

"He [Messi] has some very special talents," Guardiola said. "He is almost irreplaceable but we'll move on and fortunately he's out for only a short time." Guardiola said Messi could return in two or three weeks but Barça would not rush him back into action. "I don't know if he'll make the Rubin Kazan game. He'll rest until he is well," he added.

Ujfalusi, who was shown a red card for the challenge in added time, has apologised for the tackle and said he did not mean to cause injury. "I am not a hard player," he said. "I go in hard but always going for the ball and I give my all in every game. There are harder tackles than the one on Messi. The problem is that I did mine on Leo Messi."

The former Fiorentina player was given backing yesterday by England's Italian manager Fabio Capello, who was in Madrid attending a Uefa conference. "I know Ujfalusi very well and he's an honest player," Capello said. "I hope Messi returns very quickly because he's the kind of player it's always worth watching on the pitch."

The former Germany captain Lothar Matthäus will take over as coach of Bulgaria, the country's football federation announced yesterday.

"Matthäus will be officially presented in a few days and will lead the team in its next European Championship qualifier against Wales," football federation head Borislav Mihailov said. He added that Matthäus had agreed on a one-year contract with an option for two more years.

Matthäus replaces Stanimir Stoilov, who resigned earlier this month after the team's two losses to England and Montenegro in the opening Euro 2012 qualifiers. "We need a foreign coach with a strong background whom the players will respect," Mihailov said.

Matthäus coached Hungary without much success in 2004-05 and has held coaching jobs with a number of clubs, including Serbia's Partizan Belgrade, Austria's Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg.

The midfielder played a record 150 games for Germany and West Germany, leading the team to the World Cup in 1990 and the 1986 final. He played 302 matches for Bayern Munich and won the Uefa Cup with the team.