Francesco Coco: Better for Inter Milan if Lionel Messi plays, Latest Football News - The New Paper

Francesco Coco: Better for Inter Milan if Lionel Messi plays

But Vieri and Eto'o feel Argentine's likely absence will be a boost for Italian side

Former Inter Milan and Barcelona fullback Francesco Coco believes the Serie A giants should hope Lionel Messi is in the starting line-up when his former teams clash at the Nou Camp tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who has yet to complete a full 90 minutes this season, is a doubt due to a thigh injury.

The La Liga champions have had an unconvincing start to the season without their talisman, but former Italian international Coco still believes that it could be "advantage" Inter if Messi takes the field against them.


He told Catalan-based daily Sport: "When a player like Messi is missing, the team always feels it.

"There is a Barca with Messi and one without Messi, but perhaps his absence could be an advantage...

"It would be better for Inter to face a champion like him because they would have greater stimuli and greater concentration.

"Knowing that Messi will not be involved could instead give them relief and present a problem...

"Antonio Conte is giving Inter what was expected: Intensity, spirit, goals and results.

"Barcelona are the favourites but Inter are the worst opponents they can face right now."

Samuel Eto'o, who won the Champions League with both Barca and Inter, however, disagrees. He said it is always more difficult to defeat the La Liga side when the Argentine is on the pitch.

Eto'o told Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport: "Messi has played very little (this season).

"When he is playing, he is Barcelona. I hope he does not play against Inter. If he doesn't play, it's 50/50 as to who will win, but if he plays, it is more difficult than that."

Ex-Inter striker Christian Vieri, meanwhile, believes his former side can upset Ernesto Valverde's team.

He told Italian football programme Tiki Taka: "Conte is giving Inter great character. He has great mental strength and courage...

"Inter can win against Barcelona as there will be no Lionel Messi. Conte has his team prepared.

"Against Sampdoria, they played a great game and this year it is hard to beat Inter."

Inter legend Giuseppe Bergomi agreed that his former club are a different proposition now to the side Barcelona took four points off in last season's group stage.

The Nerazzurri have won all but one of their matches this season and sit on top of Serie A.


World Cup winner Bergomi told Gazzetta dello Sport: "Inter are coming into this game in a very good position...

"Barcelona are not having a good time at the moment and it is a totally different game to the match between them a year ago.

"Inter are a lot stronger mentally now."

Inter and Barca are level on points after the first round of Champions League Group F fixtures, after the Italian team drew 1-1 with Slavia Prague and the Spanish side were involved in a goalless stalemate with Borussia Dortmund.

Following his first Inter goal in the 3-1 win over Sampdoria last Sunday, on-loan striker Alexis Sanchez is expected to start alongside former Manchester United teammate Romelu Lukaku up front at the Nou Camp, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Barca knocked his United team out of the Champions League in the quarter-final stage last season and Sanchez believes Inter cannot make the same mistakes as the Red Devils.

The former Barcelona attacker told "At home, they are very strong.

"If we have a chance or two, we can't waste them.

"I played there with Manchester United and we wasted three or four chances.

"Then they have one or two and score, and next thing you're losing 3-0.

"If you want to beat Barca, you can't miss any chances."