Valverde delighted to be on Messi's side

British boxer Anthony Joshua reveals who will win in the bout between Ronaldo and Messi

British boxer Anthony Joshua reveals who will win in the bout between Ronaldo and Messi

The Catalan giants didn't just score one, either, but three as Messi led Ernesto Valverde's improving side to a win that suggests we can hit the pause button on any imminent thoughts of a decline in the post-Neymar era.

If the beginning of the domestic and Champions League season is any indication, Messi is determined to make sure that Barcelona feels the absence of Neymar as little as possible.

Dembele's inclusion at the expense of Gerard Deulofeu is Valverde's only change for his first European test as Barca boss.

Max Allegri left Giorgio Chiellini and Mario Mandzukic out of the squad after the duo failed to recover from their respective injuries, whereas Claudio Marchisio, Marko Pjaca and Sami Khedira remain in the infirmary.

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The match was a repeat of last season's quarter-final which Juve won 3-0 on aggregate, but it was Barcelona who prevailed by that scoreline on matchday one as Messi continued his inspired early-season form.

"Woke up" the Barcelona leader Lionel Messi, in his asset three goals in the last match of the team.

Sporting, who had been three goals up at half-time, host Barcelona next. However, they will have to pay close attention to Juventus' talisman Paulo Dybala, who had a major hand in engineering their collapse last season.

Messi scored the first and third goals on Tuesday and set up Ivan Rakitic for the second on in a game in which Ousmane Dembele made his first start after becoming the club's record signing, reports Xinhua news agency.

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Dembélé will start his first Barcelona game although he made his debut last week-end when he assisted Luis Suarez in Barcelona's 5-0 win against Espayol.

Madrid had opened with a convincing 3-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna but then was held to a 2-2 draw by Valencia at the Bernabeu. The player Juan Cuadrado is suspended and Alex Sandro is in doubt. "[Andres] Iniesta represents the essence of football, while [Ousmane] Dembele is an interesting youngster, and when you have players like [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez and Dembele, it's hard for your opponents to mark you".

While his talent his unquestionable, the fact remains that Dybala plays in the exact same position as Messi, behind a main striker. After all, it's only been barely half a year since they so convincingly beat the Blaugrana on their route to the final.

Barcelona have topped their group in each Champions League campaign since the 2007-08 season.

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"He is training well, every day he is more integrated", said Valverde.

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