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Monday 5 December 2016

Messi: no friendly fire for Celtic tie

Barcelona talisman Lionl Messi aims to give Celtic a torrid time in this evening’s
International Champions Cup clash at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Barcelona talisman Lionl Messi aims to give Celtic a torrid time in this evening’s International Champions Cup clash at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

Lionel Messi hopes to give Celtic's defence a full 90-minute work-out at the Aviva Stadium this evening - to help sharpen them up for Champions League qualification.

As he prepares to go head-to-head with Brendan Rodgers' men at Lansdowne Road in the latest glamour leg of the International Champions Cup, Messi revealed that Celtic belong in the group stages of Europe's elite club competition.

And while Messi is in the mood to do as much damage as possible to the Scottish champs, he believes the next 90 minutes will provide Celtic with a perfect opportunity to fine tune their preparations for next week's second leg qualifier against Astana in Glasgow.

The tie is still in the balance despite Rodgers leading his team to a 1-1 draw in Kazakhstan on Wednesday afternoon.

And Messi is backing Scotland's champions to finish off the job.

He said: "For Celtic they have much more important games than this coming up with the Champions League qualifiers, but this can help them prepare.

"We have had some games against Celtic that I will always remember, and they are a big club, with big fans, and I would like to see them qualify this year - it is where they belong.

"It is always a good atmosphere against Celtic. For the players at Barcelona who experienced the games in Europe against them, they will know what to expect from their fans.

"It is only a friendly, but I don't think their fans know what a friendly is. There are a lot of Celtic fans in Ireland, and I expect them to make a lot of noise and create another special atmosphere."

But, as much as Messi might like to see Celtic make it through the group stages, his own focus is fixed on winning the tournament outright.

He continued: "My aims this season is the same as always, to try and win every competition that Barcelona are in. That is what is expected of us as a club, not to prioritise, but to aim and win every competition that we are in.

"The Champions League is always a big competition for Barcelona.

"It is a special trophy, and one that I would like to win many more times. It is never easier, and this year will be no different. The big teams in Europe have all improved, but we are confident in our squad and confident about the season ahead."

Celtic manager Rodgers is set to shuffle his pack for this evening's game with next Tuesday's crucial tie in mind, while new signing Kolo Toure could make his Bhoys debut.

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