Messi out for three weeks

> Striker suf­fers old groin in­jury as Barca are held by Atletico, Real stay top de­spite draw

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

LIONEL MESSI will miss the next three weeks af­ter suf­fer­ing the re­cur­rence of a groin in­jury as Atletico Madrid came from be­hind to hold Barcelona 1-1 at the Camp Nou yes­ter­day.

Ivan Rakitic headed Barca into the lead just be­fore half­time, but An­gel Cor­rea slot­ted home on the hour mark just sec­onds af­ter Messi limped off to hand Atletico a de­served point.

Ear­lier, Real Madrid’s record­e­qualling 16-game La Liga win streak came to an end as Vil­lar­real drew 1-1 draw at the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu.

Madrid con­tinue to lead Barca by three points at the top of the ta­ble with Atletico a fur­ther point back in fourth.

Sevilla, who beat Real Betis on Tues­day, re­main in sec­ond place.

“To lose Lionel Messi means foot­ball loses and we lose,” said Barca boss Luis En­rique. “Now we have to look for other so­lu­tions. With Leo we are much stronger, but with­out him we are still a strong team.”

Messi is set to miss Barca’s next three games at Sport­ing Gi­jon and Celta Vigo in La Liga and Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach in the Cham­pi­ons League, as well as Ar­gentina’s World Cup qual­i­fiers against Peru and Paraguay.

The five-time World Player of the Year missed Ar­gentina’s last qual­i­fier in Venezuela ear­lier this month due to a sim­i­lar in­jury.

Barca’s stel­lar front three of Messi, Luis Suarez and Ney­mar had struck 10 times in their last two games, but were kept largely quiet by Atletico’s typ­i­cally rock­solid de­fence.

The hosts had to wait un­til four min­utes be­fore the break to se­ri­ously threaten again when they took the lead.

Atletico mo­men­tar­ily switched off as a cor­ner from the left was played short to An­dres Ini­esta and his cross was pow­ered home by the late ar­riv­ing Rakitic.

How­ever, Barca’s joy was short-lived, first by a dou­ble in­jury blow and then Cor­rea’s lev­eller.

Ser­gio Bus­quets was first forced off due to ill­ness be­fore Messi went down to the con­ster­na­tion of the Camp Nou.

The Ar­gen­tine’s re­place­ment Arda Tu­ran had barely taken up his po­si­tion when Atletico lev­elled as Cor­rea coolly slot­ted home af­ter Javier Mascher­ano’s slip of­fered him a clear path to goal.

At the Bern­abeu, the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons were look­ing to sur­pass the Liga mark of 16 wins first set by Pep Guardi­ola’s Barcelona in 2010/11, but were made to pay for a slug­gish first-half dis­play.

“We lacked in­ten­sity in the first-half,” said Madrid boss Zine­dine Zi­dane. “The sec­ond­half was great from ev­ery­one, but you can’t al­ways win the three points at the end.

“We know we have to work hard and change things, above all how we start the game.”

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Gareth Bale re­turned to the Madrid side that won 2-0 at Es­panyol on Sun­day.

How­ever, Vil­lar­real were the bet­ter side in the first-half and got their re­ward just be­fore half­time when Ser­gio Ramos han­dled Manu Trigueros’s shot and ref­eree Jose Luis Gon­za­lez pointed to the spot.

Cap­tain Bruno So­ri­ano stepped up and coolly chipped the ball down the mid­dle of the goal past Casilla.

Ramos made amends right at the start of the sec­ond-half when he rose high­est to head home James Ro­driguez’s cor­ner.

Real’s frus­tra­tion spilled over when Ron­aldo earned a yel­low card for kick­ing out at Bruno. – AFP six in five games and go top of the league scor­ing charts. Else­where, Palermo had Ilija Nestorovski’s 89th minute win­ner to thank for a pre­cious 1-0 win at Ata­lanta, Fiorentina held Udi­nese to a 2-2 draw in Udine and nine-man Torino did well to se­cure a score­less draw at Pescara.

– REUTERSPIX

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi sits on the pitch in­jured dur­ing their La Liga match against Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou Sta­dium in Barcelona yes­ter­day.

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