Valverde praises Barca for stepping up in Messi's absence

No Messi or Ronaldo but Clasico could still define season

Barcelona cruise past Inter without Messi

A loss could mean the end for manager Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked over the summer as coach of the Spanish national team for talking about the Real Madrid job. The first leg of this year's El Clasico at the Nou Camp promises another realm of fire and here's why.

"He is the best we've seen and now among all of us we have to make his absence less noticeable because we don't have his genius".

Barca have been accused of "Messidependencia", an over-reliance on the Argentinian, who inspired them to a 4-2 victory over Tottenham in their last Champions League outing.

Following the match, fans took to social media to hail Barcelona's "team effort" and emphatic victory even with Messi on the sidelines.

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Lionel Messi - out with a broken arm - watched from the stands at the Nou Camp as Barca dominated the Group B tie on Wednesday.

Perhaps most alarming for Madrid, however, is that Ronaldo accounted for 38 per cent of the goals they scored against Barcelona during his time at the club. Madrid are just four points clear of a woeful Valencia that have managed one win all season long. Messi, rather like today's fixture, was forced to sit out the game through injury.

Both Madrid sides are struggling by their standards in La Liga so far this year, Griezmann's Atleti sitting in fifth place on 16 points and Los Blancos two points adrift of their city rivals in seventh.

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Isco insisted on Monday that if they fire the coach, they should fire the players too.

Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon believes Jose Mourinho will return to the Spanish capital "sooner or later".

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is expected to start in between the sticks.

They have failed to keep a clean sheet in six games across all competitions and what was a rock-solid defence last season is being regularly cut open by opposition attackers like hot knives through butter.

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Barca remain top of the group ahead of El Clasico on Sunday, with Rafinha ready to face Madrid. "We have to be recognisable in the way we play, keeping the ball".

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