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09.06.2019 04:37
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Lionel Messis hamstring injury has hurt more than just a muscle in the Argentines right leg, and its still smarting. The Barcelona forward scored 60 goals in all competitions this season, enough to ensure the team wins the Spanish league title yet again. But with Messi struggling to recover from the injury he picked up in the Champions League quarterfinals in April, Barcelona was eliminated from that competition in the semifinals. And last weekend, Messi re-aggravated the injury and is now likely to miss the last three games of the Spanish season. "Hes the No. 1, perhaps the best in history," Barcelona defender Jordi Alba said Tuesday before stating what seems to be the obvious. "On many occasions, we depend on him." The 25-year-old Messi won his fourth straight player of the year award this season, and has scored an amazing 133 goals over the last two campaigns. But without the Argentine on the field, Barcelona is just not the same team that has won two of the last four Champions League titles. Most teams would consider the Spanish league title a resounding triumph, but Messi and his Barcelona teammates expect more after winning 14 of a possible 19 trophies in recent years. "We set the bar so high that now you win the league its like you havent won anything," Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said Wednesday. "We had won so much and yet we still have to value (this title). There is a lot of pressure. If you dont win the Champions League its like you havent won anything." This "Messi-dependence" surely is a disease any other club in the world would love to contract. But with Messi hurt against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals, Barcelona could not find the sure scoring threat it needed. It even seemed that Barcelona didnt believe it could win without him. And it didnt, losing 3-0 in the second leg after the 4-0 rout in the first. Unless he returns for Barcelonas season finale against Malaga on the first weekend in June, Messi will end this season with a league-leading 46 goals -- four short of his own record of 50 from last season. He also scored eight more in the Champions League, four in the Copa del Rey, and two in the Spanish Super Cup. Last season, Messi scored 73 goals to break the previous European club record of 67 goals set by Bayern Munich striker Gerd Mueller in 1972-73. Even so, the Argentina star was reduced to tears when Barcelona somehow lost to Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals. This year, Barcelona was obliterated by Bayern, and that historic 7-0 scoreline makes a big difference for a team which for the first time in five years wont start next season as the favourite in Europes top-tier competition. Not, that is, unless it makes some major changes to its aging squad. Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova insists he will maintain the teams core and that its humbling Champions League exit wont change his plans for the off-season. Yet Barcelona has players that may not be physically able to execute the pressing defence that underlies its famed ball-control and passing game. Captain Carles Puyol is 35 and Eric Abidal, whose contract is up in June, is 33 and only recently returned from a liver transplant. Fellow defenders Dani Alves will be 30 and Javier Mascherano 29 by the start of next season, while the injury-prone Adriano is 28. Midfielder Xavi Hernandez, the heart of Barcelonas passing attack, is 33, striker David Villa is 31, and midfielder Andres Iniesta recently turned 29. "A season when you win the league is always a good one," Vilanova said, looking on the bright side before turning to the seasons big disappointment. "We regret not being able to compete better in the semifinals of the Champions League. Next season will be even more difficult, but well try to be there again."Custom Tampa Bay Lightning Jerseys . Coach Mike Munchak says Fokou stretched ligaments in his left knee Oct. 13 against Seattle, which could keep out up to five weeks even though the linebacker didnt need surgery. Custom New York Rangers Jerseys . A big centre with all the tools to be an elite player, Johansen paced the Blue Jackets with a standout game Saturday night. He had a goal and two assists for a career-high three points as Columbus beat the New York Islanders 5-2 to snap a five-game losing streak. . -- Playing time has been limited for Maxim Tissot this season, so the Montreal Impact defender made the most of his first scoring opportunity on Saturday. Custom New York Islanders Jerseys . Vettel was 0.168 seconds faster than Red Bull teammate Mark Webber around the Suzuka circuit. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was two tenths of a second off Vettel. "The car balance is decent, but I think we can still improve," Vettel said. Clearance Custom Hockey Jerseys . Louis Blues teammates who would also be participating in the Olympics, Alex Pietrangelo felt right at home, no different in some ways to the travel experience of any old road trip – save for the length of the journey, that is.West Coast midfielder Luke Shuey says the teams ability to win ugly could prove to be a major advantage come finals time.The Eagles are just percentage adrift of fourth spot after escaping with a scrappy seven-point AFL win over Carlton at the MCG on Sunday.West Coast have struggled to recapture the form they displayed during last years run to the grand final, but theyve done enough to put themselves into the premiership mix.Shuey admits the teams win over Carlton was an ugly game to watch.But he said it wasnt necessarily a bad thing.Finals footy is like that. Youve got to win ugly in finals, Shuey said on Monday.Not too many games in finals you win by a big margin.Hawthorn smashed us on grand final day, but I cant remember too many finals where theres been massive wins.Theyre generally ugly and pretty contested, dirty sort of games. The most disappointing part was we had our chances to ice the game yesterday and we didnt take them.West Coast took the competition by surprise last year, with the Weagles Web defensive system proving a huge success.However, opposittion sides have been far more attuned to West Coasts tactics this year, making it harder for Adam Simpsons charges to catch rivals off guard.ddddddddddddut its still no excuse for not being able to play your best football, Shuey said.Teams have known how good Hawthorn are for the last six years, but they keep on winning premierships.We cant use that as an excuse when we play poor. Its not an easy fix, but were still reasonably happy with where were at.Weve got to keep working hard, keep being honest with each other, and hopefully things click into gear.The Eagles will start as hot favourites to notch their fifth straight win in Saturdays clash with Melbourne at Domain Stadium.West Coast then take on strugglers Collingwood (MCG) and Fremantle, giving them an excellent chance to push for a top-four berth.Star ruckman Nic Naitanui is on track to return for either the Dockers clash, or the August 13 showdown with GWS at Spotless Stadium. ' ' '

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