Former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso believes the Reds have the quality to tackle Barcelona at the semi-final stage of the Champions League. The Merseyside giants reached their second Champions League semi-final on the bounce after beating Porto by a convincing 6-1 aggregate scoreline and they are now set to face their toughest challenge yet.
Speaking to the club’s official website, Alonso said that the Reds have the recent experience of reaching the current stage of the competition and this should give them a boost ahead of their challenge against the Spanish champions, he said: “Yes, they can, because they reached the final last year so now they know how it feels to be there. But we will see. It’s going to be a great, great semi-final to watch and [I’m] really looking forward to it.”
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has said that he is comfortable with his position at the Catalan giants and does not seek to leave the club anytime soon. The Argentina international was recently urged by Cristiano Ronaldo to take up a fresh challenge in the Serie A but Messi appears content to prolong his stay with the Spanish champions.
In an interview covered by Marca, Messi said that Real Madrid are a great club but they have been hampered this campaign with Ronaldo’s departure reducing their impact in the forward department, he quipped: “At the beginning of the season I said they are a great club, one of the best in the world and with a lot of great players, but anyone would miss Cristiano. He scores a lot of goals and gives you many other things so it doesn’t surprise me.”
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde was disappointed to see his team only get a 1-1 draw with Valencia during the weekend. The result has extended at the club’s winless run in the league to an incredible four matches. Lionel Messi was able to come up with a crucial equaliser that helped Barcelona pick up at least point. It took only two minutes for Valencia to score in the match but it was Messi who came up with the equaliser in the first half. Even though Barcelona were unable to find a winner in the game, they were able to look at Real Madrid also drop points during the weekend.
Valverde is coming under immense pressure on already and one of the few joys for Barcelona came in the Champions League where they have picked up back-to-back wins. The summer witnessed several changes in the Barcelona setup and they seem to have missed the magic that made them champions last season. The failure to win the recent matches has been characterised by a lack of creativity and Barcelona are now behind Sevilla going into the international break. Valverde lamented Valencia scoring from one of the few mistakes that Barcelona committed in the match and he is confident of the team recovering back to their best in the near future.
Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong has revealed that he would like to play alongside Lionel Messi at Barcelona in the future. The Netherlands international was the subject of two failed bids from the Spanish champions during the summer and reports have suggested that the Blaugrana could make a renewed attempt at the turn of the year.
Speaking to Ajax’s television channel, De Jong hinted that he would like to make the switch to a bigger club in the future whilst highlighting his preference to play alongside Barcelona legend Messi, he said:”If you end up at a superior club, you will play with world class players all over the pitch. But for me, honestly, I would like to play with Messi one day.”
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has branded Lionel Messi as a ‘genius’ after the Argentine starred during the club’s 3-0 win over Alaves in the season opener. Messi had a rather frustrating World Cup with Argentina over the summer but he managed to shed the disappointment with a brace to kick-start the league campaign.
Speaking after the game, Valverde was full of praise for the attacker, who scored Barcelona’s 6000th La Liga goal with a lovely free-kick which was intentionally placed underneath the opposition wall, he said: “Messi is a genius. We’re lucky to be able to see him every day. We’re lucky to be involved in football during the era in which he is playing — we want him to pull a rabbit from the hat every day. There’s still room for Messi to surprise us. He always surprises you — he never ceases to amaze me, honestly. You have to be ready to expect anything from Messi because he sees what no one else sees.”
Argentina legend Javier Zanetti believes Lionel Messi is under more pressure to deliver for the national side after witnessing them lose in the finals of the previous three major tournaments. The Barcelona star has won everything within reach at club level but he has yet to taste any form of glory with the Albiceleste.
Speaking to Mediaset, Zanetti admitted that Messi will once more be the focus of Argentina’s World Cup campaign and feels the burden will only increase on him, should the nation reach the final stages of the tournament, he said: “There is a lot of pressure on him, but not only in this competition but also in the past. Everyone expects it to be his World Cup and that Argentina can win, but it will be difficult because I see other more equipped national teams. The defeats in the two Copa America and World Cup finals further increases pressures on him and the team from the press. We expect a lot. It [the World Cup] stops all the country, there is great enthusiasm and passion for this national team and we hope to get to the end of the competition.”