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Rafinha replaces injured Messi in 'Clasico', Lopetegui turns to Isco

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By Reuters
Rafinha replaces injured Messi in 'Clasico', Lopetegui turns to Isco
Soccer Football - Champions League - Group Stage - Group B - FC Barcelona v Inter Milan - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - October 24, 2018 Barcelona's Rafinha in action with Inter Milan's Ivan Perisic REUTERS/Albert Gea   -   Copyright  ALBERT GEA(Reuters)

By Richard Martin

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona’s Brazilian midfielder Rafinha was chosen in place of the injured Lionel Messi for Sunday’s ‘Clasico’ against arch- rivals Real Madrid, as coach Ernesto Valverde kept faith with the same players who beat Inter Milan 2-0.

Barca are set to line-up in a 4-3-3 formation with Rafinha on the right, Luis Suarez as central striker and record signing Philippe Coutinho on the left. Rafinha struck Barca’s first goal in their Champions League victory over Inter on Wednesday.

The coach also rewarded in-form midfielder Arthur Melo for his recent displays, handing the Brazilian his first appearance in a ‘Clasico’.

Under-fire Real coach Julen Lopetegui picked playmaker Isco in place of forward Marco Asensio in what is likely to be a four-man midfield, with Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema up front. Spain international Isco has recently returned to action from a month out following an appendicitis.

Lopetegui, who Spanish media reported is facing the sack unless his side win the game, selected Nacho at right back in place of the injured Dani Carvajal, and recalled Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after fielding Keylor Navas in the 2-1 win over Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)