Messi included in Barcelona squad to face Real Madrid in Copa del Rey

Lionel Messi is expected to feature in Wednesday’s Clasico against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg.

Barcelona’s captain was a doubt following thigh injury he picked up against Valencia on Saturday but has been included in Ernesto Valverde’s 19-man squad.

This will be the first of three meetings between the two within the space of a month as Real Madrid look to knock their Catalan rivals off their stride.

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Barcelona boss Valverde had said in Tuesday’s pre-match press conference that he would decide whether Messi could play based on how he was in training on Tuesday evening.

Shortly after training ended, Messi was named in the match-day squad to face Real Madrid, but Ousmane Dembele wasn’t included through injury.

“I’m not one to take risks,” said Valverde. “If the league finished tomorrow, then it would be different. If there’s a risk of injury, the players play with the handbrake on, and in a game like [against Real Madrid] you can’t put the handbrake on.

“I don’t know what effect he will have on the opponent. You must ask them. We know what he brings to us and to our fans.”

Whether Messi plays or not, it doesn’t seem to matter to Santiago Solari: “It’s always good that the best play every game. It doesn’t affect us in the slightest or stop our preparation if he plays.”

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A Luis Suarez hat-trick put an emphatic end to Julen Lopetegui’s tenure in charge when Real Madrid last visited the Camp Nou, but Valverde is expecting to see a different Madrid.

“Real Madrid often play well at the Camp Nou,” he said. “In LaLiga we were superior and they were in a delicate moment. We’re expecting the best version of Real Madrid.”

Solari, who was in charge of Castilla at the time, isn’t worried about what happened earlier in the season and is looking forward to facing Valverde.

“I don’t know if there will be tactical surprises or not. What I’m hoping for is that it’s beautiful, that it’s enjoyed and that we win.”

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