Oh, boy: Celtic hopes dad's the word for Messi
Updated: 2012-10-23 08:05
By Agence France-Presse in Madrid (China Daily)
Celtic's hopes of beating Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday could be decided at a maternity ward rather than in the intimidating atmosphere of Camp Nou, the home of the Catalan giants.
The Spanish side's Argentine superstar Lionel Messi (pictured) is due to become a father this week for the first time when his girlfriend, Antonella Roccuzzo, gives birth.
The couple's baby, already known to be a boy who will be named Thiago, was widely expected to arrive over the weekend. That prompted feverish speculation in the Spanish media that Messi would be rested from the team.
"The game against Deportivo (on Saturday) could go down in Messi's history books. Several sources report that the Argentine has the date of 20th October marked on his calendar as the day his first child, Thiago, will enter into the world," claimed Marca sports daily.
"Messi himself has confirmed that his family and that of Antonella are on their way to Barcelona for the occasion."
In the end, baby Thiago decided not to make an appearance just yet and Messi played in the 5-4 win over Deportivo La Coruna, scoring his 21st Barcelona hat-trick, which kept his team on top of La Liga.
With or without Messi, Barcelona is in pole position in its European group after back-to-back victories.
It can take a significant step toward qualifying for the last 16 if it comes out on top against Celtic. The Scottish club managed a surprise win away to Spartak Moscow in its last game to leave it second on four points.
Despite regular center-halves Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique having spent most of the season in the treatment room, Barca has been a model of efficiency.
Although it hasn't reached the peak of recent campaigns in terms of performance, only the El Clasico draw against Real Madrid has stopped it from boasting a perfect winning Liga record.
Messi once again showed his importance to the team with a hat-trick over the weekend and he now already has 15 goals this season. His tally for the calendar year is up to a remarkable 71.
Barca dismissed any fears of tiredness as it stormed into a three-goal lead away to Deportivo, but a harsh penalty awarded for a foul by Javier Mascherano allowed the Galician side back into the game.
In the end, it was left holding on for the final 10 minutes with just a goal advantage and down to 10 men following the dismissal of Mascherano.
Xavi Hernandez and Pedro Rodriguez started the game on the bench, given a break ahead of the visit from Celtic, but coach Tito Vilanova didn't risk dropping Messi, who had been on international duty with Argentina.
With Puyol and Pique still not fully fit, it's likely Mascherano and Alex Song will be the center-half pairing against Celtic.
(China Daily 10/23/2012 page22)