MADRID • European champions Barcelona begin a two-month stretch without Lionel Messi when Bayer Leverkusen visit the Nou Camp today hoping to take advantage of the star's absence.
He suffered a torn left knee ligament as Barca squeezed past Las Palmas 2-1 at the weekend.
Luis Suarez carried the mantle after the Argentinian's departure, with a double to ensure the Spanish football team got back to winning ways after being hammered 4-1 by Celta Vigo in their previous outing.
And much more will be needed of him and fellow forward Neymar in the coming weeks, as Barca's injury-ridden squad face up to eight games without Messi.
"He is the best in the world and logically we will miss him a lot," said midfielder Sergio Busquets.
With Claudio Bravo, Thomas Vermaelen and Rafinha also sidelined by injury, coach Luis Enrique has just 15 senior outfield players to choose from in the coming weeks.
Barca are also serving a one-year ban from registering new players for breaking Fifa's rules on the signing of minors. And their appeal to football's world governing body to register one of their two summer signings, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, owing to the injury crisis has fallen on deaf ears.
Leverkusen have particularly bad memories of being faced with Messi's magic as he scored five in a 7-1 humiliation the last time the German side visited Barcelona in the round of 16 in 2012.
However, the club's sporting director Rudi Voeller claimed he was not pleased to hear Messi will be out of action. "That hurts to hear, he's always a joy to watch," said the former Germany international.
BARCELONA v LEVERKUSEN
StarHub Ch202, tomorrow, 2.30am