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Frenkie de Jong Talks Lionel Messi Return, Predicts 'Hard Game' vs. Inter Milan

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2019

DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 17: (L-R) Frenkie de Jong of FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League  match between Borussia Dortmund v FC Barcelona at the Signal Iduna Park on September 17, 2019 in Dortmund Germany (Photo by Laurens Lindhout/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong said it's "easier" to play alongside Lionel Messi, but he nevertheless expects a difficult match against Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

Messi, who missed Barca's first four matches of the campaign with a foot injury, was absent against Getafe on Saturday with an adductor problem. He has been declared fit to face Inter, though.

De Jong told Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Sport):

"We miss him and that's normal as he's the best player in the world, but without him, we have sufficient qualities and ideas to impose ourselves on the pitch. We're a bit weaker, but we're still an excellent team.

"Playing with Leo is easier, he does everything well. When he gives you the ball, it's as if it has instructions with it and you have to do it. What he does with the ball is impressive but not surprising, given he's been doing that for years."

During the five games Messi has missed this season, Barca haven't been particularly convincing despite the other world-class talent available to them.

However, they only lost one of the five, and as sports writer Andy West observed, they're not in a bad position domestically all things considered:

Andy West @andywest01

Being only two points behind the leaders after Messi has only played two halves of football is actually a pretty damn good outcome for Barça

In the Champions League, Barca were held to a 0-0 draw by Borussia Dortmund in Germany last time out, with Messi failing to swing the game in the Catalan giants' favour when he came on for the final half-hour in his first appearance of the campaign.

The Argentinian missed both of Barcelona's clashes with Inter in last year's group stage, but he's had plenty of joy against Italian teams in the past:

FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona

#Messi 🆚 🇮🇹 https://t.co/2SERtVcM3P

Even with Messi, De Jong expects Wednesday's clash to be a "hard game" because "supermanager" Antonio Conte "will have some surprises up his sleeve."

Inter have started the season with six wins out of six in Serie A under the Italian, conceding just two goals in that time.

Barca will be at the Camp Nou, and the Nerazzurri were held to 1-1 draw by Slavia Prague at the San Siro last time out in the Champions League, so they're not infallible.

Messi is yet to hit full stride this season, though, so even if he's able to start on Wednesday, he might not be at his best.  

If that is the case, Barcelona need De Jong and others to compensate with strong performances of their own.

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