Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has said the absence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in a Clasico for the first time in 11 years takes none of the gloss away from Sunday’s match.
Ronaldo left Madrid in the summer to join Juventus, and Messi fractured a bone in his arm last weekend against Sevilla, ruling him out for three weeks.
Messi and Ronaldo’s rivalry has come to define the fixture so much over the last decade that it was suggested to Valverde this weekend’s meeting between the two sides has an underwhelming feel to it.
“No, it won’t be any less of a Clasico without them,” Valverde said. “The Clasico existed before Messi and Cristiano. In fact, before there were pigs’ heads flying [at Luis Figo, in 2002], there was tension. The Clasico is always the Clasico.”