Barcelona coach Enrique prepares for life without Messi

Barcelona, Sep 28 (IANS) Defending champions FC Barcelona coach Luis Enrique will have to decide how his side adapts to life without star striker Lionel Messi when they entertain Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Messi will be out of action for two months after damaging knee ligaments at the start of Barcelona’s 2-1 win at home to Las Palmas in a La Liga match on Sunday, reports Xinhua.

With defender Rafinha out for the season and the club unable to include midfielder Arda Turan into their squad, the Barcelona coach will have to decide whether he decides to include young striker Munir in his starting line or to play with an extra man in midfield.

Midfielder Andres Iniesta will return to the side after being rested at the weekend, while there is a chance defender Jordi Alba could be back at left back after missing the last two games through injury.

Strikers Luis Suarez and Neymar will have to take the responsibility of leading the attack, something that Suarez did on Saturday with his side’s two goals, while Neymar will have to pick up his game after missing a penalty, although Messi’s absence should give him more room on the pitch and more chance to shine.

“It is impossible to replace a player like Messi and it is a big challenge to keep being competitive without our best player,” said Enrique, who tried to take the pressure off Neymar.

“Only the press can ask for Neymar to take a step forward, but I think all of our players will take that step forward,” he said, adding that Bayer could see Messi’s injury as giving them an extra chance of winning.

Tuesday also sees another Spanish side Valencia in Champions League action as they travel to face French club Olympique Lyon, needing a win after losing their first group game 3-2 at home to Russian team Zenit St Petersburg.

Meanwhile Spanish giants Real Madrid visit Swedish outfit Malmo and fellow Spanish team Sevilla are away to Italian champions Juventus on Wednesday, while Atletico Madrid play at home to Portuguese team Benfica.

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