Cut Messi some slack, says Barca assistant Roura

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi from Argentina, left, and Real’s Mesut Ozil from Germany challenge for the ball during a Copa del Rey soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013.

MADRID – Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura on Friday sought to ease the pressure on Lionel Messi as the Catalans prepare to face Real Madrid for the second time in five days.

Saturday’s league clash at the Santiago Bernabeu comes after the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg on Tuesday, which Madrid won 3-1 at the Camp Nou to advance 4-2 on aggregate to a final against capital rivals Atletico.

Messi was disappointing in that game, failing to make an impact just as he had struggled in the 2-0 Champions League last 16, first leg, defeat to AC Milan a week earlier.

However, Roura, who continues to take full charge of first-team affairs while coach Tito Vilanova undergoes cancer treatment in New York, insisted that the prolific Messi should be allowed the occasional below-par performance without coming in for criticism.

“When you have the best player in the world in your team and he doesn’t score, you notice that,” Roura said.

“But it’s just incidental. He can go as many games as he wants without scoring, because he will start to do so again.”

Roura added that Messi is recovering well after missing training on Wednesday complaining of feeling ill.

“He had a temperature yesterday (Thursday), but he is recovering well,” said Roura.

The website of Madrid-based sports daily Marca said that Messi took part in the training session that followed Roura’s press conference.

Meanwhile, Roura said that Vilanova is making good progress as he continues treatment on his parotid gland cancer.

“He is doing well and is upbeat,” he said. “He is continuing his treatment. That gives us confidence and makes us happy.”

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