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Despite witnessing Lionel Messi's artistry dismantle FC Bayern München from the Camp Nou substitutes' bench last week, Philipp Lahm insisted he is relishing the prospect of coming face to face with the FC Barcelona star in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
With Lahm laid low by a calf injury in Catalonia, Christian Lell switched flanks to fill in at left-back and was tormented by Messi, who scored twice and helped create Barça's two other goals to give the Spanish Liga leaders an emphatic 4-0 advantage to take to Bavaria. Now fit again, the German international will be the man charged with containing the twinkle-toed Argentinian at the Fuβball Arena München, and though he maintained he is merely a cog in the Bayern wheel, Lahm could scarcely contain his growing anticipation of a personal duel with Messi.
"It's not just about single players, it's about the team," said the 25-year-old, who also missed his side's 4-0 defeat of Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend, which lifted Bayern into second place in the Bundesliga and revived flagging morale. "Each of us has to play to his full potential against such a good team and against such good individuals. We have to be at 100 per cent of our capabilities, and if we are then we can beat Barcelona. I also want to perform as well as I can, especially against Messi, who is one of the best players in the world. I'm really looking forward to this battle."
Coach Jürgen Klinsmann acknowledged that the return of Lahm and centre-back Lucio, who missed the Camp Nou rout with a thigh strain, would give Bayern "more stability" in defence as they aim to make UEFA Champions League history by becoming the first club to overturn a four-goal first-leg deficit in the competition. Last week's defeat provoked a fierce barrage of criticism directed at both the team and Klinsmann, and although Lahm tempered expectations that the four-time European champions could keep their ambitions intact by producing a footballing miracle, he admitted that there was a steely determination within the Bayern squad to prove they are worthy of their place among the continent's finest eight teams.
"It'll be very tough to win and we want to be realistic about our chances of going through, which are very limited indeed. Barcelona are the overwhelming favourites and just a win would give us a boost," conceded Lahm, whose return will see Lell revert to his usual position at right-back. "Last week's defeat was a big blow. Now we have to show them what we can do. At home we want to show the fans what we can really achieve. We want to show that we deserve to be in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
We want to put right the humiliation of last week and show that we can compete with the best teams in Europe."
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