(AFP) – Apr 22, 2008
BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) — Most pundits are predicting that Barcelona will struggle to beat Manchester United but Lionel Messi said he had faith in his own, and his team's, ability to upset the odds here on Tuesday.
"I can't say why you should believe in us but we believe in ourselves and think that we can get through," said the inspirational Argentine winger, who was the runner up for the 2007 World Player of the Year award.
Barcelona face the English champions and current Premiership leaders in their Champions League semi-final first leg match on Wednesday with the second leg in Manchester six days later.
The winners will go through to meet either Liverpool or Chelsea in the final in Moscow on May 21.
Messi hasn't played a full game for two months after suffering a thigh injury in February but the indications are that Barca coach Frank Rijkaard will start with him after trying him out as a substitute in their last two games.
"I feel fine myself and feel ready to play but it's up to the manager in the end," said Messi, in his usual deadpan fashion when asked whether he could survive for 90 minutes against United.
He dismissed the suggestion that has been punted in the headlines, both in Spain and England, that the outcome could decide who came out on top of the contest for supremacy between himself and United's Cristiano Ronaldo.
"It's more than being a duel between me and Cristiano Ronaldo, it's a match between two very good football teams and it'll be a very interesting game," added Messi.
"Personally, I'm very relaxed and I don't feel any pressure even though the spotlight is on me.
"At the moment, I'm just waiting for the game and getting ready to play because any game between two big teams like Barcelona and Manchester United is going to be big game."
After being gently pressed, Messi admitted that he and the Barca squad had as good as given up on the La Liga title.
In the wake of three consecutive draws, Barca now lie third and are 11 points in arrears of leaders and bitter rivals Real Madrid with just five games to play.
"The league is very difficult now so all we have left to us is to concentrate on the Champions League. It will be a great achievement to get in the Champions league final.
"We've had a run of bad games recently but we are now concentrating on this game. Manchester is a great team with great players but tomorrow we are going to try and keep control of the ball and take the game to them.
"Of course, we are missing some important players like Ronaldinho, but the rest of us are all focused," he added.
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