Lionel Messi could return for Barcelona in tonight's Champions League match at Rubin Kazan with the Spanish champions determined not to repeat last year's costly mistake of taking the Russian side too lightly.
Rubin drew 0-0 at home and then stunned Pep Guardiola's outfit 2-1 at the Nou Camp in the group stage last season. "Last year they taught us a thing or two. You have to win the three points on the field of play," the Barça sports director Andoni Zubizarreta said.
"Rubin surprised us beating us at home and this had an effect on the group standings. [In the away leg] the weather conditions and the way they played made it very complicated for us. This time we go with one game under our belts and at a time of year when the weather is a little milder."
They are also lifted by news that Messi, whose ankle injury from a week ago has been a major talking point in Spain, had been included in the squad. Even though he has not been passed fit yet by the club's medical staff, he is expected to play a part.
In the Argentina forward's absence Barça have notched up two more league victories and have now won four games on the trot, including a 5-1 mauling of Panathinaikos two weeks ago, since their surprise slip-up at home to promoted Hercules in La Liga.
Messi's return will also be welcomed by Rubin coach Kurban Berdyev, who had been disappointed earlier in the week that he would not be playing. "You always want to test yourself against the best," he said. "I would really like to see him play. I'm sure thousands of Rubin fans would say the same thing."
The Russian champions should be at full strength after welcoming back Spanish defender Cesar Navas who missed a 1-0 defeat by Copenhagen in their group opener two weeks ago because of suspension. The other match in the group sees Panathinaikos hosting Copenhagen.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid and Barcelona may be close to a deal under which television income would be shared more equitably, according to the president of the professional soccer league (LFP).
"We had a meeting and a proposal was made to share income according to percentages linked to audience share, a fixed percentage and [further percentages] that fluctuate according to historical results," LFP president Jose Luis Astiazaran said yesterday.