The God's Given Lionel Messi - messilegend

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Barcelona Is Ready To Win With Beautiful Football!

Barcelona attack at full strength vs. Man United
ROME (AP) - Barcelona's formidable attack should be at its best with Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta likely to return for the Champions League final against Manchester United.

Henry and Iniesta were traveling with the team to Rome on Tuesday, a day after taking part in their first full training session since picking up separate leg injuries earlier this month.

The puzzle is coming together for the Spanish champions in time for Wednesday's match between two of the world's best clubs.

"They are two basic footballing pieces in our scheme," Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. "We know they're going to play, that they'll be 100 percent, and to have them is a privilege because with them we're better."

Both players have been key to the offensive juggernaut that has scored 151 goals in collecting two trophies this season.

Iniesta's injury-time goal against a staunch Chelsea side earned Barca its sixth trip to the final; it has won the cup twice. The Spain midfielder, recovering from a thigh injury, abandoned his usual reserved nature when it came to deciphering the final.

"United are the defending champions, one of the best, but they don't scare me. I have the same respect for them as they have for us," Iniesta said. "It's a chance to go down in history. I'd accept winning on penalties."

Based on their training methods, that's something Barcelona is not exactly ready for.

"We haven't practiced them," Xavi said. "I think to do that is ridiculous because you can't emulate the tension of a game in a training session."

Henry has combined with Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o to net a league-record 71 goals by a trio. But Iniesta provides an integral midfield piece to rookie coach Josep Guardiola's philosophy: attacking, possession soccer borne out by midfielders Xavi and Iniesta.

The two players are straight out of the mold of Guardiola, a former midfielder who orchestrated Barcelona to 10 major titles from that role, including in the Champions League in 1992.

"This is special for us because we played the best football," Xavi said after the club secured its 19th league title. "I have never seen (a team) play at this level, I have never played in a better team. We have individuals but, above all, we've won as a team. I'm proud."

But the absence of several defenders has left Barcelona's defense exposed against a team that knocked it out at the semifinal stage last year.

With fullbacks Daniel Alves and Eric Abidal suspended and center back Rafael Marquez injured, midfielder Yaya Toure will likely partner with former United player Gerard Pique in the middle as he did against Chelsea, then against Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Cup final. Captain Carles Puyol and 35-year-old Silvinho are likely to fill in on the wings.

With forwards Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov to contend with, goalkeeper Victor Valdes again may be called upon to make big saves in pressure moments.

"What I must value is how Rooney, Tevez, (Paul) Scholes, etc., work," Iniesta said. "Rooney played left back against us. To win a final against United you can't make any mistakes."

Ronaldo vs. Messi could decide 'best player' award (But one game doesnt make the difference. Messi has been outstanding throughout the year, from Spanish League to Champions League. Fair enough. Messi is undeniably the best this year!!!)

While Manchester United and Barcelona play for the Champions League trophy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi may well be squaring off for the right to call himself the world's best player.

Ronaldo, however, doesn't seem too concerned about that.

"Now to decide (who the best player is), who cares about that? What I want more is to win the Champions League and that's it," Ronaldo said Tuesday from the Stadio Olimpico. "I respect Barcelona very much, Messi is special also.

"Sincerely, I'm not worried about that. I would rather win the Champions League final. I want it very much."

Ronaldo is the reigning FIFA world player of the year after his 42 goals last season guided United to both the Premier League and Champions League trophies. Messi was second in the voting, despite Barcelona enduring a second straight season without a trophy.

This season, however, Messi has already collected two trophies and netted more goals than Ronaldo, and the result of Wednesday's final could be the deciding factor when votes are cast for next year's award. (I dont think so.)

"Both are huge, huge players," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "For me, never mind who is going to win the Champions League or who is better - both are marvelous players. For Manchester, Ronaldo is very important, and for us Messi is very important."

United coach Alex Ferguson said picking one over the other was difficult because of their different styles - Ronaldo's speedy stepovers and long-range shooting vs. Messi's darting runs and imagination inside the area.

"Both have the ability and courage to attack defenders all the time. No matter how many times they are tackled they get up and they want the ball, and that's the kind of courage we want to see in footballers. And both have it," Ferguson said. "Both have different types of qualities, both are different types of players but at end of the day, how can you divide it? They're separate."

If Man United defends its European trophy, that will provide a fourth piece of silverware after league, League Cup and Club World Cup triumphs.

Messi can add a Champions League title to Barcelona's league and cup double, and see the Catalans become only the fifth Spanish team to win three trophies in a season.

"Messi will play a good game if we get our tactics right," Guardiola said.

Ronaldo has never scored against Spanish opposition while Messi, who leads the competition with eight goals, has never netted against a Premier League opponent.

Ronaldo said the buildup to the their individual showdown was not proving a distraction.

"I'm 100 percent focused on the game. I know the people want to know something about me but I'm very focused," Ronaldo said. "I try to score a goal and win the game, that's it."


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