Barcelona (Spain), Oct 27 (IANS) Barcelona trained without injured superstar Lionel Messi on Saturday in the final practice session before the first El Clasico duel of the 2018-19 La Liga season with arch-rival Real Madrid.
Coach Ernesto Valverde brought in Barcelona B defender Juan “Chumi” Brandariz Movilla for the practice session to cover the absence of injured defenders Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen, reports Efe news.
Brazil midfielder Rafinha participated in the practice, after having taken Messi’s spot in the starting lineup and scoring the first goal in the 2-0 win over Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Wednesday.
Later Saturday, Valverde is set to release the starting lineup for Sunday’s El Clasico, the first without either Messi or ex-Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo since 2007.
Messi fell and fractured his right arm on October 20 during the first half of Barça’s 4-2 La Liga win against Sevilla, and is expected to miss the next five matches, according to a statement released by the club.
As of Matchday 10, Barcelona holds the top spot in the Spanish league standings with 18 points, ahead of Espanyol on goal difference, while Real Madrid is in seventh place with 14 points.