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article imageBarca boss plays down Neymar injury fears

By AFP     Jan 16, 2014 in World

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino insisted he doesn't believe Neymar will be out for a signficant period of time after the Brazilian forward sprained his right ankle in the Catalans' 2-0 win away to Getafe in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Lionel Messi scored both goals on his first start since returning from a hamstring injury as Barca eased into the quarter-finals 6-0 on aggregate where they will face Levante.

However, their evening was soured when Neymar, also making his first start of 2014, rolled his ankle whilst attempting to provide a cross midway through the first-half.

The 21-year-old had to be helped from the field by two members of the Barca medical staff as he was replaced by Alexis Sanchez.

Martino, though, played down fears that Neymar could miss the first-leg of his side's Champions League clash with Manchester City next month.

"If what we think is confirmed then it won't be something that will require him to be out for long," he said.

"It could have been much worse, but the doctors have reassured us and it will be them who decide how long he is out for."

There was more encouragement for Martino in the form showed by his compatriot Messi.

The diminutive Argentine opened the scoring with a neat finish at the near post from Cristian Tello's cross just before half-time.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring at the Coliseum Alfonso P...
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium in Getafe on January 16, 2014
Javier Soriano, AFP

But it was his wonderful solo second goal that showed he is truly back to his best as he skipped past three Getafe defenders before rounding Jordi Codina and slotting home from a narrow angle.

"He was out for 60 days, but physically he feels good and you can see he is now ready to play the 90 minutes. It was just a matter of time until he did it."

The night was also marked by Xavi Hernandez's 700th appearance for the club as he replaced Cesc Fabregas with 20 minutes to go.

Recent speculation has linked the Spanish international with a move to Major League Soccer in the United States for as early as next season.

However, Martino suggested he would like to see the 33-year-old retire at Barcelona.

"First of all I have to congratulate him, as we all have done.

"To play 700 games in Barcelona is not something you see happen very often. Only footballers of this great quality can do that.

"He is of a class of footballer that ought not to retire in a different shirt from the one he has played in 700 times."

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