Spalletti: ‘Barca stronger with Messi’



Luciano Spalletti concedes “it probably would’ve been a stronger Barcelona with Lionel Messi, but this is the game Inter were dreaming of and where we must prove ourselves.”

The Champions League clash kicks off on Wednesday at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT).

Messi has been ruled out of both group games against Inter, as he fractured a bone in his arm during Saturday’s win over Levante.

“Whenever you are facing Barcelona and the talent they have all over the field, one of the best teams in the world, inevitably they are going to be the favourites at Camp Nou,” said the Coach in his Press conference.

“We must have great self-belief that doesn’t tip over into arrogance, because we are going through a strong period of form. We’ve got to repeat what we did in the last few games and maintain humility, relying on all our love for this sport.

“Even if his replacements will want to show all they can do, Messi remains a different player to the rest. When you think you’ve seen it all, he invents something different. The problem for us won’t be how to mark one player or another, but how we can use the ball better.

“It’s difficult to say what Ernesto Valverde will do in Messi’s absence, but I expect a 4-3-3. He has quick players, technical ones like Rafinha who can go between the lines. I take this opportunity to salute Rafinha and thank him for all he did for us last season, as he was fundamental during that loan spell.”

Rafinha said that Spalletti probably didn’t want him to remain, but the Coach paints a different picture.

“We had this written agreement and an option that had an expiry, but until a certain date we simply couldn’t make any purchases. It was too late afterwards to talk about keeping him and Barcelona were not interested in any of our proposals. Tomorrow we’ll try to show them that there was something worth looking at.”

“It probably would’ve been a stronger Barcelona with Messi, but this remains a great team with many options. Perhaps without him we have that extra half-second to think before they act.

“We have to play at the top level and avoid becoming submissive in our approach. We’ve got to believe in our chances. Many of my players have never been in the Champions League, so this is the game they were dreaming of and it is also where we must prove ourselves.”

Radja Nainggolan is out after spraining his ankle in the Milan Derby victory on Sunday, but Spalletti has other concerns.

“Marcelo Brozovic still has a muscular problem, while Ivan Perisic appears to have shaken off most of the knock. I can confirm Joao Miranda will play.

“There is Borja Valero, but we also have some very versatile players, for example Kwadwo Asamoah, Milan Skriniar, Antonio Candreva and Matteo Politano can all play in midfield.

“This is no time for experiments, so we’ve got to rely on what we know best and make the most of those elements. We must have the self-belief, determination and grit that our fans had for all these years they waited for a moment like this. It can be a fundamental game.”