‘Messi’s absence could work in Barcelona's favour’ – Coco says Inter would prefer to face Argentine

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The former Nerazzurri and Blaugrana defender believes the presence of a talismanic figure helps to sharpen the focus of those facing the Liga giants

Lionel Messi’s absence could end up working in Barcelona’s favour, claims Francesco Coco, with Champions League rivals Inter hoping that the Argentine will figure on Wednesday.

The Argentine superstar is currently nursing a niggling thigh complaint that has prevented him from making the desired impact in the 2019-20 campaign, with just three appearances taken in to-date.

Barca are hoping to have him available for European duty in midweek, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner back in training.

Coco, though, has suggested that Ernesto Valverde’s side may fare better without the 32-year-old, as his presence helps to sharpen the focus of domestic and continental opponents.

The former Barca and Inter defender told Sport: “When a player like Messi is missing, the team always feels it.

“There is a Barca with Messi and one without Messi, but perhaps his absence could be an advantage.

“I explain myself. It would be better for Inter to face a champion like him because they would have greater stimuli and greater concentration.

“Knowing that Messi will not be involved could instead give them relief and represent a problem.”

Antonio Conte Inter 2019

Whether Messi is involved or not at Camp Nou, Coco concedes that Inter are in for a tough test.

He added: “To win at the Camp Nou you need three things: personality, intensity and courage. 

“If you go there thinking that you will not win, you will collapse and fail. If, on the contrary, you prepare for the game without thinking about the result, then you may have some chance. It's all in the head. 

“You have to give everything without letting Barcelona move the ball. This is my personal recipe for success.”

Inter have been catching the eye under the guidance of Antonio Conte, with a standing at the top of Serie A taken up after collecting six successive wins.

Coco is impressed with the impact made by a new coaching regime, saying of his former employers at San Siro: “Antonio Conte is giving Inter what was expected: intensity, spirit, goals and results.

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“Barcelona are the favourites but Inter is the worst opponent that could face them right now. 

“I spoke about mentality and Conte is a winner who will transmit his charisma to his players. 

“Thanks to him we are watching a much more competitive Serie A this year, there is no Juventus domination.”

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