Barca missing Messi mojo before Milan clash

Mon Nov 4, 2013 9:34pm EST
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By Iain Rogers

MADRID (Reuters) - Lionel Messi has set the bar so high for himself that when he does not score for a few games it prompts an outburst of speculation and head-scratching about what might be ailing the Argentine World Player of the Year.

That is the situation Messi's club Barcelona find themselves in as they prepare to host AC Milan in Champions League Group H on Wednesday.

At home to Espanyol on Friday, the 26-year-old failed to score for a fourth successive La Liga match in which he played the full 90 minutes, his most barren run in almost six years.

Messi's season was disrupted by a minor muscle strain at the end of September and since his return he has also failed to score against Osasuna, Celta Vigo and Real Madrid.

That said, he did net the equalizer in last month's 1-1 Champions League draw at Milan, his fourth goal of the competition in two outings this season following his hat-trick against Ajax Amsterdam in September.

His record in La Liga is also one most players would be delighted with - eight goals in 10 appearances - yet still the alarm bells are ringing in the Catalan capital and beyond.

Barca's four club captains - Xavi, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes and Andres Iniesta - are so worried that they have offered to meet Messi to see if he needs their help, Sport newspaper reported on Sunday.

Messi himself has said little about the situation, although he posted a message on Chinese social networking site Weibo at the weekend saying he was not yet back to full fitness.   Continued...

Barcelona's Lionel Messi salutes during a training session at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, October 25, 2013. Barcelona and Real Madrid will play their Spanish First division soccer league match on October 26. REUTERS/Albert Gea