Ernesto Valverde eases Lionel Messi injury fears


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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde insists Lionel Messi is ‘fine’ after he battled through El Clasico to help his team record a 1-0 win against arch rivals Real Madrid.

The Argentina international looked to be struggling with a groin issue in the second half but he managed to carry on and help his team secure all three points.

Messi also collided with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, with the Spain international denying that he intentionally hit him in the face with his arm.

The game was once again full of passion and bruising tackles but midfielder Ivan Rakitic grabbed the winner to ensure that his team moved 10 points clear at the top of the La Liga table.

Barca fans started to worry after the game about Messi, with the Spanish giants still to play Lyon in the Champions League last-16 second leg. However, Valverde insists the club legend is fine and ready to go.

“Messi is fine,” said the Barca boss. “He has had a great game and made a great effort. “He is an extra-terrestrial in a way, because every time he takes the ball something extraordinary happens.”

Atletico Madrid can cut the gap at the top to seven points on Sunday if they beat Real Sociedad and Valverde insists the title race is still not over.

He added: “There is a world ahead. Real Madrid are capable of winning many matches in a row, but there is also Atletico.

“We respect our opponents just as they respect us and it is absurd to start thinking about the league when there are so many games left.”

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