Chris Smalling is in a confident mood ahead of the prospect of facing Lionel Messi in the Champions League, declaring: “Bring it on.”
Manchester United take on Barcelona in the first leg of their quarter-final tie on Wednesday and while the Red Devils’ resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has slowed somewhat, Barcelona have put their foot to the floor recently.
Smalling ready for Messi test: Five key things to know…
- Man Utd face Barca in the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday.
- Lionel Messi has 43 goals in 40 games for the Blaugrana this season.
- Smalling has started each of United’s last nine games across all competitions.
- The England defender has insisted he is ready for the challenge Messi and Barca pose.
- Smalling was an unused substitute during the last competitive meeting – the 2011 Champions League final.
The Blaugrana are now 11 points clear at the top of the La Liga table and are unbeaten in their last 16 games across all competitions, while Lionel Messi has scored 43 goals in 40 games this season.
However, when asked by reporters how he is feeling ahead of his face-off with the Argentine magician, Smalling simply replied: “Bring it on.”
The England international also told Man Utd’s official website of how he is planning on ‘minimising’ the chances available to Messi.
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“I’ve not played against him competitively, personally, but in friendlies and pre-season we have,” he said.
That’s someone else who I’m looking forward to playing against and hopefully minimising as many chances as possible, because we know what a world-class player he is. But it’s not just him; I think they’re a world-class team.
“We need to make sure that whatever game-plan we have – just like PSG – that we stick to it and everything falls into line. We know that we can give any team a right go.”
Smalling: We cheered drawing Barca
Despite being given what could be the hardest draw in the competition, Smalling insisted he and his United teammates are looking forward to their clash with Barcelona and admitted they actually ‘cheered’ when the teams were paired together.
“We were warming up on the bikes in the gym [when the draw was made],” he said.
“Normally we do 10 minutes on the bike and then we do some gym activation, but I think we stayed on the bikes for maybe 20 minutes just because we saw the draw was on the TV.
“We were all excited. As soon as it came out, we were all happy. We cheered and then we got on with training. But at least we knew who was in front of us.
“When the draw was made, you think, ‘I want to play against teams like this.’ I was injured or just coming back from being injured for the first game [of the last 16 against PSG], so it was nice to be able to test yourself against the best.”