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Messi fit to front united Barça

Their Spanish title hopes over, Lionel Messi reveals FC Barcelona have agreed they need "one massive effort to attack Manchester United" and rescue their season.

Lionel Messi celebrates a Barcelona goal
Lionel Messi celebrates a Barcelona goal ©Getty Images

Lionel Messi admits to being both inspired by the prospect of playing Manchester United FC and desperate to reach the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow. But FC Barcelona's brilliant Argentinian international forward cannot wait to hear the last of the questions comparing him with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Twin talents
Because the 20-year-old South American and the 23-year-old Portuguese are regarded as two of the world's outstanding creative players, this tantalising contest has already prompted comparison after comparison. Messi, though, simply wants battle to commence and to let his skills speak for themselves. "A big, high-level match like this depends on the two teams and how well they play, not on any single player," he said. "When Barcelona meet Manchester United in the Champions League semi-finals, it's an interesting challenge between two great clubs and that's what I'm looking forward to. I never go out on the pitch to prove myself against another player – simply to help my team win."

Out to impress
Messi's lowest point this season came when he limped off with a hamstring problem during the 1-0 second-leg defeat of Celtic FC in the first knockout round. The injury was scheduled to keep him out until next week's trip to Old Trafford. But having featured in Saturday's Primera División draw with neighbours RCD Espanyol, and because he sat out Barcelona's 2006 UEFA Champions League final victory with a similar complaint, the No19 is eager to lead his side's efforts on Wednesday.

'Beautiful game'
"I am fine," he confirmed. "If the coach wants 90 minutes from me, that's no problem. I don't value this night more because I missed the 2006 final; I value it because it should be a beautiful game. United are in great form right now, they have fantastic players, so it's OK that they are called favourites. But I think that the match offers a contest between two big clubs and each has a quality team that is capable of winning through to the final."

Tense atmosphere
No news conference at the Camp Nou these days passes without scrutiny of Barça's domestic difficulties – even when previewing a tie of this magnitude. Nonetheless, Messi believes the Blaugrana possess an extra gear on nights like this, saying: "European football is totally different from league football here. Our fans have been a bit upset recently when we haven't got the results they wanted and we needed. But the players have spoken about this and agree that we need one massive effort to attack Manchester United and push for the final. We may be playing Manchester but we feel 'united' and we feel confident."

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