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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Barcelona through to knockout stages of Uefa Champions League despite no Lionel Messi

Argentine striker not risked as he recovers from a broken arm as 1-1 draw with Inter Milan enough to guarantee spot in the last 16

Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Inter Milan has put them through to the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League. Getty
Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Inter Milan has put them through to the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League. Getty

Ernesto Valverde declared himself happy after Barcelona qualified for the Champions League last 16 following a 1-1 draw at Inter Milan.

Barca, who would have sealed first place in Group B with a victory at the San Siro, grabbed the lead in the 83rd minute through substitute Malcom's strike.

Mauro Icardi then levelled four minutes later as the visitors dropped points in the pool for the first time.

Barcelona boss Valverde was quoted by Marca as saying in his post-match press conference: "We wanted to close out our lead, we did everything possible, but we're happy because we managed to qualify.

"We played a great game, the quality of Inter is that they know how to handle themselves very well.

"They have earned many points in the last moments of matches."

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Lionel Messi was once again not involved, as for Barca's previous four matches.

Messi, who has been recovering from a fractured arm, returned to training last week and had travelled with his team-mates to Italy.

Valverde said of not including the Argentinian in his matchday 18: "We didn't want to take a risk with Leo.

"We were careful in training, but we knew that today's match would be like how it was."

While Barcelona are through with 10 points from four games, second-placed Inter have seven points and Tottenham, up to third after beating PSV Eindhoven 2-1, have four.

The next round of matches sees Barca travel to PSV and Inter take on Tottenham Hotspur away.

Valverde added with regard to the Italians: "They have a clear strategy, which is to always attack and be aggressive with their pressing.

"I don't know what route Inter or us will have after tonight, but of course they are a team to consider, they have the DNA of never giving in and they will take that spirit into the Tottenham match."

Inter boss Luciano Spalletti praised his side for the reaction to Malcom's goal.

"We wanted to put in a performance that the fans could appreciate and the team responded in the right way," said Spalletti, quoted on Inter's official website.

"We were brave and we performed in line with what the crowd wanted.

"It seemed as though the match was going to finish 0-0. Their goal came in an unexpected fashion but our reaction was vital.

"The boys didn't let up and the fact that Icardi went straight to get the ball after scoring the equaliser shows the character and mentality of this team."

Spalletti added: "Qualification is in our hands, but we can't let up in our remaining matches. We must go to London to get a result, convinced of our own abilities."