Michael Essien tips Real Madrid to win this weekend's El Clasico

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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.

Rafinha filled in for the injured Lionel Messi by scoring the opening goal to lead Barcelona to a 2-0 victory over Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Barcelona are in group B without loss crossed the equator of the group stage of the Champions League. And we want to bring some joy to our fans, and this is the flawless game for that.

"We must show ambition during these matches and play teams of this level without dropping off".

With Messi out for three weeks and Real Madrid next up at the Camp Nou on Sunday, the question was whether Barca could cope without their star player and captain.

"We are very happy for the match, against a team that was going to make things very hard for us, we played very well".

"I have a great relationship with him", said Jordi Alba, Barca's left-back, who played under Lopetegui for Spain.

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The Portugal worldwide departed for Juventus during the close season and this weekend's clash will be the first Clásico clash not to feature both Ronaldo and great rival Lionel Messi since 2007, with the latter having broken his arm against Sevilla.

The influential forward is no stranger to the Clasico atmosphere, having played Real regularly since his first appearance against Los Blancos over a decade ago.

"With Messi, they would have caused us more problems, but without him that caused us enough trouble as it was", Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said.

"They're a team that is creating chances".

Valverde not only has to find a suitable replacement but also has to ensure Messi's absence doesn't damage his side's confidence.

Radja Nainggolan has missed out on a place in Inter's squad for the Champions League fixture against Barcelona due to injury.