Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has acknowledged the Catalans are a better team with Lionel Messi, but is adamant they are not reliant on the Argentina international.
The reigning Liga champions have been without Messi ever since he picked up a knee injury in the win over Las Palmas in September and have since won six out of eight games in all competitions.
Luis Suarez and Neymar in particular have stepped up in the 28-year-old’s absence and Luis Enrique feels Barcelona have shown they can cope without Messi.
“That we are dependent on Messi is just something the press keeps on mentioning. Of course, we are better with Messi, but we have shown that we can cope without him,” the Barca coach said at a news conference on Saturday.
“We have a great team and everybody has stepped up in Messi’s absence. Irrespective of who is unavailable, we have a great team both defensively and in attack.
“We are more than just Neymar and Suarez. We should also look at how much the defence and midfield contributes.”
A number of recent reports suggested Messi will not be fit in time for the Clasico against Real Madrid on November 21, but Luis Enrique is adamant the attacker’s recovery is going according to schedule.
“Messi’s recovery is going very well,” he added.
“Of course, I would prefer to have everyone available all the time, but the player’s health always comes first. There is nothing worse for an injured player than a recovery setback.
“Injured players will not be rushed back. They will return when they are ready.”