MADRID - World Player of the Year Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona's trip to Malaga on Sunday as he continues to recover from a thigh injury as Real Madrid remained poised to welcome Gareth Bale.
Messi was substituted at half-time in Barca's 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday and Barca boss Gerardo Martino confirmed the 25-year-old had not been included in his squad as a precaution.
"He is developing well," Martino told a press conference on Saturday.
"It is just a precaution. We are optimistic, but it is just three days since the injury occurred and it would be risky to play him, especially so early in the season."
Messi's absence should mean a start for Cesc Fabregas in the false nine role he often occupies for Spain.
However, Martino was tight-lipped on whether or not Neymar would be handed his first start for the club after coming off the bench to net his first Barca goal on Wednesday.
"Just because Messi isn't there doesn't mean Neymar has to take the reins," said the coach.
"Neymar is improving all the time, but we need to take things bit by bit to ensure everything goes well in the end. My intention is that when he plays he is able to show all that he can do."
Real Madrid meanwhile are not in action until Monday night when they travel to face Granada.
However, it is looking increasingly unlikely that they will travel to Andalusia with Bale amongst their ranks as there was still no confirmation of his move from Spurs on Saturday.