Deco and Messi set to reinforce Barça campaign

Following Tuesday night's victory in Gelsenkirchen, Barcelona's injury problems look finally to be easing – with Deco preparing to make his comeback at the weekend and Lionel Messi due to return from his native Argentina for the final phase of his rehabilitation.

Still an issue, however, is Ronaldinho's fitness. The Brazilian has been training only intermittently and is unlikely to play in the weekend's La Liga visit of Getafe in case the notoriously unforgiving Nou Camp crowd give him a hard time.

The Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard, has been rotating to cover for the slew of injuries, but without any real success, so the return of three of the jewels in the club's crown is vital. Indeed, Deco had hoped to return from a hamstring injury for the game against Schalke, but was advised by doctors to continue working with the team's fitness coach, Paco Seirullo. The Portuguese midfielder should be named in the squad for Sunday's game.

Ronaldinho's return may be some way away yet. He trained for around 20 minutes on Sunday, not at all on Monday and had another short stint on Tuesday. There have been suggestions that he has no reason not to play, turning public opinion against him, and the club do not want to see him jeered by fans.

Messi, meanwhile, is due to return from Argentina today. As well as the imminent return of some of their finest talent, Barcelona's ability to weather some heavy pressure from Schalke 04 in the closing stages of their Champions League win in Gelsenkirchen could also help revive their flagging fortunes.

Barcelona clinched a 1-0 win in the quarter-final first leg thanks to an early strike from forward Bojan Krkic, but although they dominated for much of Tuesday's match they found themselves on the ropes as Schalke piled forward in the closing minutes.

A series of sharp saves from Victor Valdes, some gritty defending from centre back Gabriel Milito and some streetwise time-wasting from captain Carles Puyol helped the visitors to hang on.

"It's about time we gave our fans something to cheer about," Puyol said. "It is an important win for us especially after everything else that has been happening at the moment. I think we're on track in the tie."

Puyol, who was booked for time-wasting, admitted his side had been prepared to drop their usual attacking style in order to win through.

"When you are suffering at the end of a game and the opposition are attacking, time-wasting is one way to cool things down," he said. "I was annoyed that I got booked because I was just waiting for the referee to blow the final whistle when he showed me the card."

Striker Samuel Eto'o said team confidence had been boosted by the fact that, unlike in recent games in Spain, they had managed to hold on for the win.

"We had to work very hard because they pressured us a lot in the second half," he said. "We've been playing quite well recently but we've been losing other games in the closing minutes. When everyone is back from injury, when Messi, Ronaldinho and Deco return to the team, then we can dream about getting to the final in Moscow."

The Schalke 04 coach, Mirko Slomka, said his players would not repeat the error of showing Barcelona too much respect in the second leg. After conceding the early goal to the Catalans in a timid first-half display, the Bundesliga side were unlucky not to score an equaliser after creating a series of excellent chances in the second period.

"Our respect for them lasted for far too long at the start but in the second half we were much more courageous and created a lot of opportunities," Slomka said. "We knew we would have our chances as they have been shipping a lot of goals recently. Obviously we can't start thinking we can play like that for 90 minutes in Barcelona, but on the evidence of the second half I believe we still have a chance. We just have to seize it."

Schalke have struggled to find the net in the Champions League this season, scoring six goals in nine games, but Fabian Ernst and Halil Altintop both went close midway through the second half.

Soren Larsen then squandered a free header and Marcelo Bordon brought a fingertip save from Valdes in the final moments of the match.

"In the Champions League you have to capitalise on chances like the ones we had," Slomka said. "Unfortunately, some of our creative players were injured and we missed them. Maybe one or two will return for the second leg which would help."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot