Eurozone: Messi injury hands the baton to Henry

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The Independent Football

Thierry Henry was whistled by 40,000 disapproving Athletic Bilbao fans when he came on as a second-half substitute in Barcelona's 1-1 draw at San Mames on Saturday. The bad smell lingers from his handball assist against Ireland last week. He will be back among friends tomorrow night at the Nou Camp but they will want a Leo Messi-sized performance from him in the game that will decide their Champions League fate.

Messi will miss the visit of Jose Mourinho's Internazionale with a thigh strain that could also rule him out of El Clásico on Sunday, and so just six days after his infamous handball all eyes will be on Henry to lead a depleted Barcelona into the biggest game they have played since last season's Champions League final against Manchester United.

Messi signalled to the bench to be replaced 75 minutes into Barça's battle with Bilbao. His injury is a further headache for coach Pep Guardiola who has Eric Abidal and Yaya Touré recovering from swine flu, Zlatan Ibrahimovic feeling his hamstring and Real Madrid looking down from the top of La Liga after they won and the champions could only draw. Defeat against Inter will almost certainly end Barcelona's involvement in this season's Champions League.

Dani Alves put the visitors ahead against Bilbao but La Catedral erupted on 63 minutes when substitute Gaizka Toquero equalised from Fernando Llorente's pass. It was Barcelona's fifth draw of the season and there are signs that the draining heroics of last season are beginning to take their toll... too bad that Real Madrid and first Jose Mourinho are next up. The Special One disappeared down the tunnel two minutes before the final whistle of Inter's 3-1 win at Bologna satisfied with what he had seen. The victory was marred by racist insults directed by Bologna fans at Inter forward Mario Balotelli but on the pitch, courtesy of a Balotelli strike and goals from Diego Milito and Esteban Cambiasso, Inter strolled to victory – with Samuel Eto'o on the bench and only used after half-time.



Everyone's talking about – 1...

"We never received an offer over €100m [£90m]. The best bid was from Chelsea: €65m plus the player Bosingwa," said general manager Uli Hoeness on the Blues' fruitless summer pursuit of Bayern's Franck Ribéry.



Everyone's talking about – 2...

Signing for Real Madrid can seriously damage your career. Just ask Michael Owen, Jonathan Woodgate and David Beckham. Owen was slaughtered for "only scoring goals", Woodgate rushed back from injury and straight into a relapse, and Beckham won just one trophy in four seasons. Now it's the turn of Kaka and Karim Benzema.

The French striker was again hauled off after failing to score in Real's 1-0 win over Racing Santander and despite an assist for Gonzalo Higuain's goal, Kaka once again looked a shadow of the Milan master Real signed for £55m in the summer.

"Top in-spite of Pellegrini," read one headline as the Chilean coach's stock plummets at the Bernabeu. Cristiano Ronaldo's career is proving harder to ruin – the nine goals he scored before his injury and the team crashing out of the Spanish Cup since he got injured have only served to increase his value and he looks all set to return next Sunday at the Nou Camp.



Player of the week

Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal brought Mario Gomez into his starting line-up to replace Luca Toni The recalled striker repaid his under-fire coach with the goal that earned the home side a point against Bayer Leverkusen to leave Van Gaal clinging to his job. The Dutchman admitted before the game: "Lose this one and they will get rid of me."

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