The fear of Lionel Messi is the beginning of football wisdom. But Manchester United defender , Chris Smalling has told the world footballer that tonight’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final dwell against Barcelona would shock the world.
Messi has been nemesis and nightmare to most defenders in England having scored 22 Champions League goals in 30 appearances against English teams – more than any other player in the history of the competition.
The United centre-back insisted they had nothing to fear though, saying “it’s something to relish.”
Smalling said: “This season I’ve been lucky enough to face (Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Kylian) Mbappe and they’re all challenges that I think I definitely relish, and I think players at this club relish.
“I say bring it on. You work so hard to get into those Champions League places and we’re working now to get third this season.
“These are the ties we look forward to. All the hard work in the group stages, this is what it’s about. We players are all itching to be on that field and show what we can do.”
United face the five-time winners for the first time since the final in 2011. The Catalan giants came out on top back then, running out 3-1 winners at Wembley.
The Red Devils have never lost a European match at home to Barcelona though, and defender Gerard Pique has urged his side to make sure they do not leave United room for another heroic comeback.
“The PSG game should serve as an example for us that you cannot afford to leave Manchester United alive, if you can beat them with lots of goals then you have to do it.
“United have a great history, in the second leg they played with lots of young lads from their academy and they still qualified.
“That game should remind us that we have to be very concentrated, as United are a very dangerous team.”
Pique also praised his former team mate and now permanent manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for reviving his former club’s fortunes.
“I remember Ole as a great team mate, I was 17 and he was a veteran and for sure he helped me adapt to the club, to the country and to the city.
“It was a great experience to train alongside him, he helped me a lot so I’m happy to see him in charge of Manchester United. He’s done a great job, won lots of games and got them playing much better.