BARCELONA – With Lionel Messi still injured, faltering La Liga champions Barcelona host Valencia on Saturday needing to prove they can produce big performances without their talisman.
Messi has not played a minute of football this season due to a calf injury and without him Barca have made their worst start to a campaign since 2008, taking four points from three games.
While they thrashed Real Betis 5-2 in their previous home game, they stumbled to a 2-2 draw at promoted Osasuna in their last outing, failing to have a shot on goal in the first half in a performance coach Ernesto Valverde described as "awful".
Messi, who confirmed he will not be back to face Valencia and still does not know when he will return, urged his team mates to take a step up after their haphazard start.
"It has been a strange start because we have had a lot more injuries than normal," Messi told newspaper Sport.