Messi faces six weeks out with hamstring problem

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The Independent Online

The Barcelona playmaker Lionel Messi is set to be ruled out for around six weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered during Tuesday night's Champions League match with Celtic.

Messi limped off in tears after sustaining the problem during the first half of the 1-0 win, and tests have revealed the extent of the damage. It is expected the Argentina international will be out for a month and a half, meaning he is likely to miss around six league games, plus the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Valencia and both of Barcelona's Champions League quarter-final matches.

Barcelona, who defeated Celtic 4-2 on aggregate, are second in La Liga, five points behind leaders Real Madrid, and they drew their Copa del Rey semi-final first leg 1-1 against Valencia.

Captain Carles Puyol has blamed the Spanish media for Messi's latest setback. Barça coach Frank Rijkaard left the forward out of Barcelona's last game, a 4-2 defeat at Atletico Madrid in the league last Saturday, drawing widespread criticism.

Barcelona medical staff announced that they had advised Rijkaard to leave Messi out of the game, yet in the build-up to Tuesday's Champions League game the media were unanimous in their calls for Messi to be played. Now Puyol believes the media must accept the blame for his injury.

"The doctors spoke and said their was a risk of injury and you [the media] put pressure on him to play, saying that he always has to play," said Puyol. "On Saturday there was more risk than today, but if he hadn't played and we had got a bad result I'm sure you would have said it was because he wasn't on the pitch.

"Leo's injury is bad news, so now let's see what you have to say about that. You've got to leave the doctors and physios to do their job because they know more about these things than you do."

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, meanwhile, knows Celtic must assert themselves as Scotland's leading team before planning their next assault on an elusive Champions League quarter-final place.

Celtic trail Scottish Premier League leaders Rangers by four points and face Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup at Pittodrie on Sunday. Despite the disappointment of Tuesday night, Vennegoor of Hesselink is already targeting next season's Champions League.

"That's twice now that we've reached the last-16 stage and hopefully we will get another chance next year," he said. "We have made it past the group stages again in this campaign so that's a positive thing. But I'm looking forward to playing in the competition again and we will be doing everything in the SPL to achieve that."

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