Madrid, Oct 23 (IANS) FC Barcelona will face up to “life without Leo” when they entertain Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
Ernesto Valverde’s side go into the game without star man Lionel Messi, after the Argentinian fractured a bone in his right arm during Saturday’s 4-2 win at home to Sevilla, reports Xinhua news agency.
Valverde not only has to find a suitable replacement, but also has to ensure Messi’s absence doesn’t damage his side’s confidence.
In the only other game Messi hasn’t started this season, Barca struggled to a 1-1 draw at home against Athletic Bilbao and only began to produce something approaching their best football when the Argentinian came on as a second half substitute.
There are alternatives to Messi, with Ousmane Dembele the obvious replacement, although the French winger has suffered a drop in form after a positive start to the campaign and was on the receiving end of some boos from the crowd after replacing the Argentinian on Saturday.
Arturo Vidal could also have an opportunity, which would go some way towards easing the frustration the Chilean appears to be feeling following his scant participation since joining from Bayern Munich over the summer.
Messi’s injury could also help end the isolation of Brazilian winger Malcom, who has played just 25 minutes of first team football since joining from Bordeaux in the summer, while Rafinha would no doubt relish the chance to play against the club he spent a successful loan spell with last season.
With Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen injured, Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique will again play in central defence for Barca and will have to be wary of Inter striker Mauro Icardi, who has four goals in Serie A this season and is being touted as a possible future signing for Real Madrid.
Barca have kicked off their Champions League campaign with wins against PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham and a victory on Wednesday would all but ensure their place in the knockout stage of the competition, as well as showing they can win without Messi.
However, failure to beat Inter just four days before they entertain Real Madrid in “El Clasico” would sow the seeds of doubt ahead of one of their biggest games of the season.