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Messi makes light of pressure on Barcelona

Without a goal in four games and playing for the "best team in the world", FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi does nevertheless not feel under pressure ahead of the visit of FC Shakhtar Donetsk.

Lionel Messi was in relaxed mood when he spoke to the assembled media in Barcelona
Lionel Messi was in relaxed mood when he spoke to the assembled media in Barcelona ©Getty Images

Widely heralded as one of the most gifted footballers on the planet, playing for the "best [team] in the world", FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi could be forgiven for feeling the heat.

Throw in a dry spell by his exceptional standards – four games without a goal – and Messi might have sensed a weight on his shoulders when he addressed the assembled media ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg against FC Shakhtar Donetsk. The Argentina forward, striving to add to his 45 club goals this season – just two shy of Ronaldo's 1996/97 record – was a model of calm, however.

"I don't think we feel under pressure at this stage," he said. "I don't know what result would be good. We want to play a good match and win. The return leg depends on tomorrow's game but the important thing is to win. We never think of drawing matches because we always play to win. The fans are always there for us, especially in the Champions League, so I know they won't fail.

"I am not worried about not scoring recently. I hope I can score tomorrow to help the team and carry on scoring, but it isn't something that worries me. If I can score, fine. If not, it's OK. I'm not worried, but it would be a great record to have if I could overtake Ronaldo."

Convinced that the attacking verve instilled by Josep Guardiola ensures Barça are "well liked everywhere" and equally well set to face Shakhtar, Messi is nevertheless not taking victory for granted. The Azulgrana were, after all, beaten 3-2 at home by Mircea Lucescu's team in the 2008/09 group stage and were five minutes from being taken to penalties by them in the 2009 UEFA Super Cup before Pedro Rodríguez struck.

"They play good football, they have great players and we have faced them several times," Messi added. "It'll be a very even match as usual against Shakhtar. I hope we can gain an advantage to feel more relaxed over there [in the second leg]. I know they are strong; they produce good performances like in the Super Cup.

"We know it'll be difficult. They have very good players, lots of Brazilian players who play good football. It's a team that has a nice style. We know how to attack and we don't have a strategy. We know them, but we can't let them play."