Neymar stepping up in Lionel Messi’s absence

Neymar Barca

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Neymar’s Barcelona team-mates have praised the Brazilian for stepping up to the plate since Lionel Messi picked up his knee injury.

The brilliant Argentine is set to spend another month on the sidelines as a result of the problem he suffered during the 2-1 La Liga win over Las Palmas in September.

Barcelona have won three of the four games they have played without their talisman and Neymar has also followed his four-goal flurry against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday by teeing up both goals for Ivan Rakitic in the Champions League victory at BATE Borisov.

Neymar has eight goals in 10 appearances this season and has won the praise of defender Marc Bartra for filling the breach left by Messi.

“I think it is the case that Neymar has taken up a role where he participates more in the build-up of play with Messi not there,” said Bartra. “He is playing well and with the quality that we have in attack it is important that players like he and (Luis) Suarez keep scoring the goals for us.”

Neymar, Messi and Suarez scored 122 goals between them last season en route to the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

They became the most feared attacking trio in world football and Javier Mascherano says it is important for Neymar and Suarez to continue in their current vein of form while Messi is absent.

“Neymar is a great player but Leo is incomparable and there is no way you can replace him,” said the defender. “Neymar and Suarez are among the best players in the world, they needed to step up and fill the gap which is what is happening, but it is also the responsibility of the rest of the team.”

Barcelona are 1.83 to retain their La Liga crown this season, while they are 4.00 to become the first team to successfully defend the Champions League.

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