Inter’s seven game unbeaten streak came to an end at the Camo Nou on Wednesday as Inter lost 2-0 to Barcelona in the Champions League.
Messi was absent due to a fractured arm that will keep him out for three weeks but former Inter loanee Rafinha justified being brought into the team by opening the scoring in the first half.
Luis Suarez sent in a brilliant cross and Rafinha slotted home against his old colleagues, with Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in fine form before being beaten late on by Jordi Alba.
The only bright spot on the night for Inter was the fact that Tottenham drew 2-2 with winless PSV in the other group match meaning that Inter probably need a draw to Wembley to progress to the group stages.
Clement Lenglet scored an own goal against former club Sevilla last time out but he almost found the net at the right end, his header brilliantly blocked by Handanovic’s legs.
Rafinha, making his fifth appearance of the season, wasted a clear sight of goal but he beat Handanovic with his next chance in the 32nd minute.
The right-wing cross from Suarez was begging to be tucked away and Rafinha, who spent time on loan at Inter last season, provided a simple first-time finish.
Matteo Politano missed a great chance to equalise in the 52nd minute when found by Mauro Icardi’s cute backheel, but he blazed his shot over the crossbar.
Suarez was proving a thorn in Inter’s side and, when he wriggled through on goal, Handanovic had to make a smart block to keep it 1-0, the goalkeeper then denying Lenglet again.
Philippe Coutinho almost extended Barca’s lead but thudded a shot against the crossbar before Alba made certain of the points with a powerful finish after being sent through by Ivan Rakitic.
And a watching Messi was able to relax in the Camp Nou stands, his team-mates getting the job done without him.