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Messi scare marks Spanish stroll

Barcelona star stretchered from field with knee injury but may recover in time for weekend

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Leo Messi lies prostrate after injuring his knee on Wednesday night. DIARIO AS

The final round of Champions League group stage matches was mostly irrelevant for Liga participants. Only Valencia, vying for top spot in Group F with German juggernaut Bayern Munich, had anything to play for. Despite Valencia's 0-1 win away at Lille, Bayern thumped BATE Borisov 4-1 in Munich to go through in first place, due to its head-to-head record against the Spanish team.

The match was overseen by interim coach Salvador González, who was keeping the bench warm for Ernesto Valverde, the incoming first-team coach.

"Today's match was all about reversing the team's fortunes, putting the recent bad results behind us," said González. "It was an opportunity for the players to demonstrate that they can compete and reverse the situation."

The biggest slice of drama of the round came at Camp Nou, despite the game ending 0-0. With a few minutes left on the clock, Leo Messi, a second half substitute, fell to the turf clutching his left knee. A deathly hush descended on the stadium as the Argentinean ace was stretchered from the field. However, it was later announced that Messi had merely suffered bruising and should be fine to play at the weekend as he chases Gerd Müller's 1972 record of 85 goals in a calendar year.

"When I felt the blow I feared the worst," Messi said on Thursday. "I thought it was going to be a long time until I touched a ball again."

Málaga completed the first stage of its inaugural Champions League campaign with a 2-2 home tie against Anderlecht. Duda provided both strikes for Manuel Pellegrini's team, which enters the knock-out phase as one of only four unbeaten sides in the competition, alongside Schalke 04, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund.

Looking ahead to the next round, Pellegrini said he wasn't focused on possible opponents: "I am completely indifferent," he said after the match. "There are no easy teams. The important thing is that we get to February playing at a good level and with the ambition of getting to the quarter-finals."

Also on Tuesday, a half-strength Real Madrid, which had already qualified behind Dortmund, saw off Ajax 4-1.

Possible last 16 opponents for Spanish clubs. Barcelona: Arsenal, Porto, Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasaray. Málaga: Arsenal, Porto, Shakhtar, Galatasaray, Celtic. Real Madrid: Bayern, Juventus, Manchester United, Schalke 04, PSG. Valencia: PSG, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04, Manchester United.