Football

Manchester down, Madrid next

Messi eyes El Clasico win 
on Monday morning

Are you watching, Real Madrid?

Lionel Messi may not have scored as Barcelona defeated Manchester City yesterday morning (Singapore time) to secure their Champions League quarter-final spot with a 3-1 aggregate, but the Argentinian sent an ominous warning to Real ahead of the El Clasico on Monday morning (Singapore time).

There was no doubt the 27-year-old was back to his brilliant best as he tormented City with his trickery and vision and set up Ivan Rakitic for the only goal of the game.

It was the heroics of Joe Hart in the City goal that prevented Messi from scoring a hat-trick.

His devastating display comes at the right time as Barca host Real in the Nou Camp on Monday morning in a clash which could decide the destination of the La Liga title.

Barca lead their eternal rivals by one point in the league table and a win will take them four points clear.

The dark clouds that have hovered over Barca and Messi after the Catalan giants lost to Real Sociedad on Jan 3 have been replaced by an air of confidence.

LEADING SCORER

Luis Enrique's side are on a run of 17 victories from their last 18 games and Messi now leads Real's Cristiano Ronaldo in this season's scoring charts with 32 league goals.

"I feel good, I am enjoying the moment in which I am and I am enjoying the way the team are playing," said Messi.

"Not so long ago, people were saying I was a disaster but, when we kicked off the (new) year, we did so in another way, with new hope and desire.

"We have had a few ups and downs, which is normal, but we are back to a great level of form."

Real's recent form has been questioned, with Ronaldo and Gareth Bale especially under the spotlight, but Messi insisted his side will approach the Clasico "with a lot of respect to Madrid".

He said: "They are a great team and we have to respect them more than ever. This is when they try to be at their strongest, but we'll try and play our game and beat them."

While Messi has been the talisman, Luis Suarez and Neymar are also looking menacing in a potent three-pronged attack.

"We are playing well, but we cannot get carried away because there is a long way to go," said Messi.

"We have some big games... first against Madrid and then there are the quarter-finals (of the Champions League) where we will face another tough team."

On Real's recent poor form, Messi added: "When Madrid are in this situation, it is when they are most dangerous.

"They have great players. We will go out to play our football and look to win but, at the same time, we need to be wary of them as much as ever."

- Wire Services.


I feel good, I am enjoying the moment in which I am and I am enjoying the way the team are playing

— Lionel Messi


WHAT THEY SAY

>Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini:

When Messi gets the ball, he just gets away from all the players. It creates a lot of difficulty for our players, the ball is stuck to his foot.

>Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano:

With everyone else, football controls us, but he controls the game... He does it with a dominance 
I haven't seen in the 30 years I've lived.

>Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola:

This was very nice. Barca played well and created a lot of chances. It's a luxury to watch Messi.

>Ex-Arsenal and Barca forward Thierry Henry:

He put himself on a level where it's impossible for me to hear people doubting this man. What he has done, we should all enjoy the guy, like we did tonight. It is a pleasure.