Captain Lionel Messi sat the game out with a fractured arm but Barcelona beat Inter thanks to goals from Rafinha and Jordi Alba.
Messi was absent due to a fractured arm that will keep him out for three weeks but Rafinha justified being brought into the team by opening the scoring in the first half at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
Luis Suarez sent in a brilliant cross and Rafinha slotted home against his old colleagues, with Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in fine form before being beaten late on by Jordi Alba.
After taking maximum points from three rounds Barca are on the brink of qualification but Inter can expect to join them as they have a five-point cushion from winless PSV and Tottenham.
Clement Lenglet scored an own goal against former club Sevilla last time out but he almost found the net at the right end, his header brilliantly blocked by Handanovic’s legs.
Rafinha, making his fifth appearance of the season, wasted a clear sight of goal but he beat Handanovic with his next chance in the 32nd minute.
The right-wing cross from Suarez was begging to be tucked away and Rafinha, who spent time on loan at Inter last season, provided a simple first-time finish.
Matteo Politano missed a great chance to equalise in the 52nd minute when found by Mauro Icardi’s cute backheel, but he blazed his shot over the crossbar.
Suarez was proving a thorn in Inter’s side and, when he wriggled through on goal, Handanovic had to make a smart block to keep it 1-0, the goalkeeper then denying Lenglet again.
Philippe Coutinho almost extended Barca’s lead but thudded a shot against the crossbar before Alba made certain of the points with a powerful finish after being sent through by Ivan Rakitic.
And a watching Messi was able to relax in the Camp Nou stands, his team-mates getting the job done without him.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 24, 2018
What does it mean? No Messi, no problem ahead of Clasico
It would be inaccurate to say Barca did not miss Messi, with their attacking play lacking their usual fluency. But, as Ernesto Valverde said he hoped for in a pre-match news conference, others stepped up to address Messi’s absence, a good sign with El Clasico only four days away. Barca are almost certain to top Group B, but Inter are very likely to qualify alongside them.
Suarez shines in Messi absence
Suarez stepped up to take extra responsibility with captain Messi watching on. The striker has not had the best start to the season, scoring only once in the last month, but he caused Inter problems with his relentless running, while the cross for Rafinha’s opener was a peach.
Valero antics do not convince
The game was mostly played in the right spirit with both teams clearly respectful of each other. But Borja Valero’s attempt to get Gerard Pique sent off was rightly ignored by referee Ovidiu Hategan. Pique caught Valero on the ear but the Inter midfielder crashed to the ground like he had been clobbered by Anthony Joshua.
Messi will still be out but it’s a huge game for Barca next as they host Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season on Sunday. The following day sees Inter in Serie A action away to Lazio. As for the Champions League, the two sides meet in the return fixture at San Siro on November 6.
-This story originally appeared on FourFourTwo.co.za
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