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'Messi getting rest, nothing more' - Valverde clarifies Argentine's Inter absence ahead of crucial Clasico

21:19 GMT 09/12/2019
Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20
Barcelona will be without the forward for their Champions League clash, with a clash against Real Madrid looming

Lionel Messi's omission from Barcelona's squad for their Champions League clash with Inter was influenced by a daunting set of forthcoming fixtures that includes a potentially crucial Clasico with Real Madrid.

Messi has been rested by Ernesto Valverde for Tuesday's game at San Siro, with Barca enjoying the luxury of having already qualified for the last 16 as Group F winners.

Barca visit fourth-placed Real Sociedad in their next La Liga match on Saturday before welcoming Madrid to the Camp Nou the following Wednesday and then hosting Alaves in their final fixture before the mid-season break.

Valverde's men are level on points with Madrid at the top of the table as they lead the league on goal-difference after wining the title last campaign.

In the face of repeated questioning about Messi's absence at a media conference on Monday, Barcelona boss Valverde pointed to that run of three games in eight days as the key reason for his decision.

"Messi getting rest. Nothing more," Valverde said. "We come from important games and we have important games and I have decided that some players do not come.

"Last year we played a great game here. Without Messi, by the way."

Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo are both back in training following hamstring and calf problems respectively, but neither has been given the green light to play in Milan this week.

Ansu Fati's participation in the game is in doubt due to problems with the patellar tendons in both knees while Arthur has been struggling with a groin problem.

Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by Inter at San Siro last season but the Catalans overcame Antonio Conte's side 2-1 at Camp Nou in October to help solidify the club's path to the knockout rounds.

Asked what he expects from Inter this time around, Valverde said: "The best. They are the leaders of Serie A and in the first match they played a great game.

"They are making a great start to the championship, but in the end you have to compete.

"We come here to compete, but knowing that they have a great team."