In a huge blow to their preparation for their top-of the table clash against Real Madrid CF, later this month, FC Barcelona are set to miss-out on the services of star forward Lionel Messi.

Messi has been out injured with a knee ligament injury, for some while now, and was expected to get himself up and running (barely) by the time the Catalans had to make the trip to the Spanish capital.

However, in a development that could go on to dent their morale, Messi would not be able to recover swiftly enough, to take part in the match against arch rivals Real Madrid CF, according to Javier Miguel, of Catalan newspaper Sport.

“Unfortunately, things [the recovery] have slowed up and the player [Messi] still doesna t have sufficient strength in his knee to begin running continuously,” wrote Miguel. “Thata s to say, he doesna t have enough time to be back in shape for the Madrid match.”

However, he also said that the Catalan club have been trying to prepare themselves for this bad news, for some time now, and would go on with their normal preparations, without Messi.

“In any case, ita s not being treated as a debacle at the club. From the first day everyone at Barcelona a from the president, to the coaches to the players a were prepared for the day this news potentially was confirmed,” he continued. ” In fact, all the quotes from Messia s team-mates have focused on the fact they want him to recover properly, not to recover for Madrid. They want him back, but only when hea s 100 percent ready.”

Responsibility on Suarez and Neymar in Messi’s absence?

The November 21 clash between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona is set to be an absolute six-pointer, with both the clubs occupying the top spots on the La Liga table, on the same number of points (24). While Real have their nose ahead by the small matter of goal difference, it would be interesting to see whether FC Barcelona can compete against the . Los Blancos without their ace man.

Brazilian star Neymar and Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez have been sharing most of the responsibility between themselves, in the absence of Messi, and have proved lethal for most of the teams, that have come in their path. FC Barcelona would be looking to the South American duo to inspire them to a win at their arch rivals Real Madrid CF’s home, in the absence of Messi.