Guardiola: Messi needs protection

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola once again called for referees to do more to protect Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi from hefty tackles and fouls.

"One day they will really do some damage. Lately, he has been knocked to the floor almost every time he receives the ball," he told a news conference. "The referees have an obligation to protect players that are having that done to them. Not only Messi, but anyone."

The 21-year-old, who has been in top form for Barcelona since the start of the year, is frequently manhandled by the defenders of opposing teams. He was especially targeted by Real Madrid players during the clasico between the two arch rival teams in mid-December which the Catalan giants won 2-0.

Messi struck a late goal to help Barcelona secure a spot in the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday with a 1-1 draw at Real Mallorca that completed a 3-1 aggregate victory for the Primera Liga leaders.