BARCELONA: Lionel Messi is expected to be out for three weeks with a fractured right arm but his last contribution was to help send Barcelona back to the top of La Liga on Saturday.
Messi scored and then went off injured as Barca beat Sevilla 4-2 at Camp Nou, in a six-goal thriller that never looked like ending in anything other than a home win.
Any joy at jumping above in-form Sevilla, however, was tarnished by Messi’s injury, which will now rule him out of next weekend’s Clasico against Real Madrid.
A Barcelona club statement read: “Tests carried out on Leo Messi have confirmed that he has a fracture of the radial bone in his right arm. He will be out for approximately three weeks.”
It means Messi will also miss the Champions League match at home to Inter Milan on Wednesday, and probably the return trip to Italy on November 6, as well as league games against Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano in between.
“It is clear it is a blow,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We know what he gives us and we know what he does to the opposition.
“We have to prepare ourselves, it is clear we are going to notice the loss of Messi but we have players that can cover.”
Messi fell to the ground following a tussle with Sevilla’s Franco Vazquez and, as his right hand tried to cushion the landing, his elbow appeared to buckle.
Messi was helped off the pitch by medical staff and, despite having his right arm heavily strapped, he was finally substituted in the 26th minute.
“Emotionally, we know when he is there, he gives us more confidence because he is the best in the world,” Gerard Pique said. “But it does not have to affect us.”
Philippe Coutinho had opened the scoring and Luis Suarez’s penalty, which he also earned, made sure of victory before a three-goal flurry in the final 11 minutes.
Pablo Sarabia and Luis Muriel twice reduced the deficit to two for Sevilla, either side of a sweeping volley from Ivan Rakitic.
Even without Messi, Barca might be confident of seeing off Madrid, whose slump had continued on Saturday with a 2-1 loss at home to Levante. Barcelona, meanwhile, seems to have sparked a rival.
Since drawing at home to Athletic Bilbao last month to make it three games without a win, they have blown Tottenham away at Wembley, taken a point away to Valencia and now eased past Sevilla, who came into the weekend top of the table.
Barca fans had chanted, “don’t touch the badge” before kick-off after president Josep Maria Bartomeu had announced plans to change the club crest had been shelved.
They were soon celebrating a goal too as Coutinho bent a sumptuous right-footed shot into the far corner with only two minutes on the clock.
Messi doubled the advantage, racing clear on the counter-attack before jinking inside and curling into the bottom corner with his left foot. It was his last significant involvement.
“He did enough didn’t he?” Sevilla coach Pablo Machin said afterward.
Ousmane Dembele was Messi’s replacement but Suarez took on the mantle, too quick to his own heavy touch and brought down by Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik. Suarez buried the penalty.
The game seemed up but Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to make a brilliant double save to deny Sarabia and then Wissam Ben Yedder with his thigh.
Sarabia gave Sevilla hope with 11 minutes left, his shot deflecting off Clement Lenglet and in, but Rakitic took the steam out of any comeback with a well-struck volley. Muriel added what proved only to be a consolation in injury time.
China has over 24,000 football-featured schools
BEIJING: As of November 2018, China has over 24,000 primary and secondary schools with football education as their main feature, covering 20 million students, according to a China Education Daily report.
Also, the country has launched pilot programs of school football education in more than 130 county-level regions, the report said.
The report said the building of ranks of football teachers has been strengthened, with over 8,800 teachers and 6,800 headmasters receiving relevant training.
In 2018, a total of 25,000 people took part in national high school football league games, and 37,000 participated in national college league games, it said.
Messi and Bale benched for Copa Clasico at Camp Nou
BARCELONA: Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale were both left on the bench for the Copa del Rey semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Messi had felt pain in his thigh during Barca’s draw against Valencia on Sunday and, despite training on Tuesday evening, was not deemed fit enough to start the first leg at the Camp Nou.
Bale is still regaining fitness too following three weeks out with a calf injury although the Welshman might have been more confident of making Madrid’s line-up, having faced Alaves in La Liga on Sunday.
It is the second consecutive Clasico in which Messi has not played from the start, after the Argentinian sat out Barcelona’s 5-1 thrashing of Madrid in October with a broken arm.
Malcom came into the attacking three alongside Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho while for Madrid, Lucas Vazquez was preferred to Bale, joining the in-form Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior up front.
Barca’s slip at home to Valencia ended their eight-match winning run in the league. Madrid have found some form in recent weeks by registering five consecutive victories in all competitions.
Body recovered from wreckage of plane carrying footballer Sala: UK investigator
CARDIFF CITY: A body has been recovered from the wreckage of the plane that was carrying Argentina-born professional soccer player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in Britain said late on Wednesday.
The agency did not disclose the identity of the body.
Sala, 28, had been en route from Nantes in western France on Jan. 21 to make his debut for Premier League team Cardiff City when the plane disappeared over the English Channel.
The wreckage was found on Sunday following a privately-funded underwater search. Two seat cushions were discovered on the French coast that likely belonged to the aircraft.
A body was visible inside when the wreckage was on the seabed near Guernsey, air accident investigators had said on Monday.
The body was “successfully recovered” but attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful, the AAIB said in a statement on Wednesday. The overall operation was brought to an end due to “poor weather conditions,” the agency said.
Sala had agreed to join Welsh club Cardiff for a club-record fee of 15 million pounds ($19.63 million) from French Ligue 1 club Nantes. He and the pilot are believed to have died as the single-engined Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea.
On Saturday at Cardiff’s home Premier League match against Bournemouth, the Cardiff players held up a T-shirt bearing the image of Sala, who never played a game for the club, after the team scored in the fifth minute.
Fans were handed daffodils as they entered the Cardiff City Stadium. In the 28th minute, a round of applause swelled around the stadium as fans sang Sala’s name.
On Jan. 30, Nantes payed tribute to their former player. Referee Frank Schneider stopped play in the Ligue 1 match against St Etienne for a minute of applause during which Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic was in tears.