After two trophy-less years, Lionel Messi says FC Barcelona "know they have to win something", as the Catalan club attempt to get their campaign going with a home victory against Sporting Clube de Portugal.
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The UEFA Champions League is a competition which has already shown both its kindest and its cruellest faces to FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.
Just turned 21, the Argentinian international has been part of a squad that won club football's most prestigious prize and which has an average of better than a goal every three games in this competition. But injuries have also plagued Messi's participation in the tournament in which Barcelona fans most crave success – his recovery from a thigh problem in 2006 came just too late for Frank Rijkaard to give him a place on the bench for a final in which goals from Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti defeated Arsenal FC.
When fit, though, Messi is so vital to Josep Guardiola's team that a new term, 'Messidependencia', has been coined for Barça's alleged over-reliance on their academy product. He is being touted as a potential captain of the side when all he wants to do is get their season on track – starting with a Group C success at home to Sporting Clube de Portugal on Tuesday, which could signal the start of a long march to the Rome final for last season's semi-finalists.
"There are other candidates with more experience who could be our captain this season, but I admit that anyone would be proud to lead this team and this club," said the No10. "But after two years without a trophy, the key thing is that we have to win something this season. I can see why people are a little concerned when you add the fact we've not started well. It's quite natural and it would be helpful if we could not only win against Sporting but play well too.
"We aren't worried because we're working well and we know the results will come, so I think the fans can believe in us," added Messi, scorer of Barcelona's goal – a penalty – in Saturday's 1-1 Spanish Liga draw at home to Real Racing Club Santander, which followed an opening-day defeat at CD Numancia. "We played well against Racing and all that was missing was goals. At a club like Barça we have to win things. We'll work hard to do that and I hope we can win this competition."