Lionel Messi: The world's best is ready to face Arsenal.

Lionel Messi: The world's best is ready to face Arsenal.

If Arsene Wenger were asked to paint a portrait of his perfect footballer, he would put down his vision of a 5′ 7″ Argentine, sporting a cheeky boyish grin to distinguish him from the host of similarly diminutive stars at his own club.

While the Arsenal manager will offer a stout defence of the likes of Abou Diaby, Alex Song, Nicklas Bendtner and Manuel Almunia when any cynic questions them, the one player he would covet more than any other is unlikely to ever cross his path with anything less than menacing intent. This will be the case once again on Wednesday night.

Messi’s four-goal performance in last season’s quarter-final demolition of the Gunners sent shockwaves through Wenger’s dressing room and, such was the scale of their massacre at the Camp Nou, many questioned whether Arsenal could recover from their battering.

Their revival this season has been commendable, but they now they come face-to-face with the man who took them apart last season.

“It will be too much to ask for something similar to my last performance in these next games against Arsenal, but I always try to find a way to get better and that has to be the target this time,” Messi says. “The Arsenal match last year was very special for me. The comments that were pushed in my direction from some of the most famous names in the sport after that victory meant it was one of the greatest moments in my career so far.

“It’s not often you score four goals in any game, but to do it in a Champions League quarter-final against a top side and in a game where the side needed something after we found ourselves in a difficult position – it was amazing for me.

“I love to watch Arsenal on television because the way they play the game is very like Barcelona, but we feel we are better at this gameplan than everyone else. Now we have to prove it in the games that really matter.”

As a quartet of scintillating goals from the virtuoso nicknamed the ‘The Flea’ put Arsenal to the sword in no uncertain terms last year, Wenger was left to lick his wounds as his side were soundly beaten.

“It’s not so easy for us when we play teams who have a different mindset, like Chelsea or Inter Milan, because they have the intention of trying to stop us rather than playing a game that is more attractive for the spectators to enjoy,” Messi continues. “These are the kind of teams that are tougher for us to play our best against, but Arsenal and Manchester United want to try to win matches using the sort of method we employ at Barca and that means you can have a good game against them.

“We will not take Arsenal lightly for one minute, as they showed in the two matches against us last season that they can be dangerous opponents if we lose our concentration for a moment.

Lionel Messi, Manuel Almunia

Lionel Messi was stunning in the 4-1 win against Arsenal

“There was a moment in the last tie when they scored at the Camp Nou and we needed to respond very quickly and that will serve as a reminder that Arsenal are dangerous opponents. We must be confident if not arrogant that we can succeed.”

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona dream team are playing on a different stratosphere to the rest in European football right now, and it appears their domination has done nothing to foster feelings of complacency.

“You cannot allow your desire to be a winner to be diminished by achieving success before and I believe there is room for improvement in every sportsman,” he adds. “I’m only 23 and there is no way I believe the end of my development is coming soon. I have many years to get better and better and that has to be my ambition. The day you think there is no improvements to be made is a sad one for any player.

“Every year has seen me make improvements to my game so far and that should continue for some time yet, with games like the one against Arsenal the kind of moments you want to create again and again.

“I’m lucky to be part of a team who help to make me look good and they deserve as much of the credit for my success as I do for the hard work we have all put in on the training ground.

“Setbacks like the one we suffered in last season’s Champions League against Inter Milan are good for us because they inspire you to do better the next time. Well, the moment is here now and we have to rise to the challenge and try to reach this year’s final.”

[Via Soccernet]

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Real Madrid looked on with envy as Lionel Messi helped turn great rivals Barcelona into Europe’s leading team.

The Argentina forward inspired the Catalans to a league, cup and Champions League treble last year and another Primera Division title last term as Madrid’s wait for further silverware continued.

Now, though, the capital club can boast their own version.

They have agreed a deal with Werder Bremen for the transfer of Mesut Ozil, believed to be worth around 15 million euros, and the Germany international will undergo a medical at the Bernabeu tomorrow.

And if the Madrid faithful need any reassurance over the quality of their new signing, they need only listen to how he is spoken of back in his homeland.

“We in Germany are prone to rave about foreign players,” said Horst Hrubesch, a European Championship winner with West Germany in 1980, during this summer’s World Cup.

“We praise Wayne Rooney to the heavens, likewise (Cristiano) Ronaldo or Messi.

“But we have our own Messi. Our Messi is Ozil.”

While the Argentinian struggled in South Africa, though, Ozil quickly emerged as one of the stars of the tournament.

His glorious left-footed strike from outside the area which arced into the corner saw off Ghana and booked Germany’s place in the knock-out stages, where his dribbling and passing ability, speed of thought and eye for the unexpected proved too much for England and then Argentina to cope with.

Only eventual champions Spain managed to find a way to deal with the tournament’s most exciting new talent, nullifying his threat as Germany’s exciting campaign came to an end at the semi-finals.

Ozil, who was born in Gelsenkirchen to Turkish immigrant parents and turned down the chance to play for Turkey in favour of representing the country of his birth, has given German football something with which his predecessors were rarely associated – flair.

That is not to say he is a luxury player, with his impressive goal and assist return proof his game has an end product.

Ahead of the tournament he was winning comparisons with legendary Germany playmaker Thomas Hassler, a World Cup winner in 1990 and European Championship winner in 1996.

The 21-year-old, who can play in a central role or out wide, was the standout player in the Bundesliga last term, even if his club Werder Bremen did not emerge as challengers for the title.

His form ensured the northern Germany club did not miss Brazilian playmaker Diego, who left the Weserstadion for Juventus last summer.

But his star now shines so much brighter than that of his former team-mate.

And it is Jose Mourinho’s Madrid who will reap the rewards.

(Via EspnStar)

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F1 News: FerrariFerrari has bowed to pressure regarding accusations the team carries subliminal tobacco advertising.

Ferrari has agreed to remove the controversial barcode motifs from their cars

The decision was taken on Thursday ahead of the first European race of the 2010 Formula One season in Barcelona, Spain.

Ferrari’s decision comes just days after president Luca di Montezemolo

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Chinese GP: Jenson ButtonJenson Button heads to Barcelona this weekend in a bullish mood, reflective of his status as world champion and current leader in the title race.

Two wins from the opening four grands prix have propelled Button into a 10-point lead over the chasing pack, headed by Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg.

Crucially, it has been the manner of Button’s victories that have most impressed as his driving has been smooth and assured, allied to which have been major decisions made at pivotal moments.

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Formula One Report: Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton believes qualifying could be vital in Barcelona next weekend, especially if the rain stays away.

Formula One has seen only one completely dry race weekend, Bahrain, this season and that did little to inspire confidence in the new regulations.

The race itself was nothing more than a procession with drivers unable to close up on one another due to hot dirty air.

And should Barcelona,

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Football News: Jose MourinhoJose Mourinho has admitted he could never coach Barcelona after crushing their Champions League dream last night.

Inter Milan boss Mourinho oversaw a 3-2 aggregate win following a 1-0 second-leg defeat at the Nou Camp after being almost constantly jeered by the home crowd.

Mourinho is disparagingly known among some Barca fans as ‘the translator’, having begun his journey in football management in that role alongside Bobby Robson at the Nou Camp in the 1990s, before working as a coach under Louis van Gaal for three seasons.

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Football News: Carlos TevezBarcelona ace Lionel Messi has slammed Manchester United for their treatment of Manchester City favourite Carlos Tevez.

Tevez, who plays with Messi for Argentina, left Old Trafford to join City last summer, a move clouded by claims that Tevez was not valued highly enough by United’s hierarchy.

With 28 goals to his credit so far this season, Tevez has found a new lease of life in the blue half of Manchester, evidence, so Messi believes, that the livewire forward is appreciated far more by City.

“I try to be my own player but, if you are talking about English-based players, then I have learnt a lot from

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