Marc-Andre ter Stegen has called on his Barcelona team-mates to step up in Lionel Messi’s Clasico absence.
Barca take on bitter rivals Real Madrid on Sunday without their talisman after Messi suffered a fractured arm in last weekend’s 4-2 win over Sevilla, an injury that will sideline him for up to three weeks.
Ernesto Valverde’s team were in commanding form as Messi watched their 2-0 Champions League victory over Inter from the stands on Wednesday and Ter Stegen thinks it is time for other members of an expensively assembled squad to show their quality.
“If the best player in the world is missing for two or three weeks, then it would be strange if you do not notice the difference in the team,” the Germany goalkeeper told DAZN.
“I think we have so much personality and individual quality that we will try to compensate in the best possible way.
“It will be important that we show personality and we know that we have fantastic players in our team.
“We do not have to lie, it is not a nice situation. Without question, we would have liked to have him with us [but] I trust 100 percent who will stand on the pitch.
“We have a lot of quality. That’s why it’s more important to look only at that and not to say ‘what if Leo…’ That does not count, because he will not be able to play.
“Each player [is responsible]. Regardless of whether Leo is here or not, it is very important to me that everyone knows what they are capable of and that everyone contributes with their strengths.
“I think we have so much offensive quality. We have to grab the game and make a difference with our personal, individual quality. One will make the difference. I hope many will do it.”
Barca sit top of LaLiga at the start of Clasico weekend, with Madrid languishing in seventh – a recent run of five games without a win in all competitions leaving head coach Julen Lopetegui reportedly on the brink of losing a job he took in controversial circumstances earlier this year.
— Marc ter Stegen (@mterstegen1) 25 October 2018
But only four points separate Spain’s two heavyweight clubs, each of whom have appeared unusually vulnerable during the opening weeks of the season, with Espanyol, Alaves and Real Valladolid all represented in the upper reaches of the table.
“We had the same problem [as Madrid],” Ter Stegen said. “A lot of teams aren’t afraid of us. They have respect but no fear. Every single game is hard and it’s a challenge every time. You have to find new solutions.”
Despite mounting speculation over Lopetegui’s future and the evident void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus – a move that went essentially unaddressed in the transfer market from a Madrid point of view – Ter Stegen still expects a typically tough Clasico battle.
“We’re talking about Real Madrid,” he added. “They won three times in a row the Champions League. They will be dangerous until the end.
“El Clasico is a fantastic football match. Maybe even more than that.”
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