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Date with Bayern

Messi: It’s a big game for us

The Barcelona players laughed, grinned and applauded each other at the final pre-match training session ahead of the Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper on Tuesday morning. An important role in the Catalan camp is played by Lionel Messi who took part in a press conference with 180 journalists, 35 TV crews and 20 photographers for the first time since July.

“We’re in the semi-finals against an outstanding side,” said the four-time World Player of the Year to a packed audience in the press conference room close to the Camp Tito Vilanova, the main training ground for the Catalan club renamed in memory of their former coach. Wednesday night sees a match at the Camp Nou between “two teams with a fantastic history.”

“I wouldn’t want to miss this game as a football fan,” said Barça coach Luis Enrique ahead of the meeting with the Bayern team coached by his friend Pep Guardiola, “it’s a big game for us.” Enrique likes FC Bayern, “they play an attacking game and they’ve got a good defence that doesn’t concede many goals at all.” And Enrique rates the chances of going through at 50-50: “Form on the day will be crucial.”

'It will be a completely different game'

The fact FC Bayern have a number of problems with injuries has not reduced the respect shown by the Catalans for the men from Munich. “They can easily cope with the injuries,” said Enrique, “they’ve had a lot of injuries this season and have overcome it.” And the protective mask that Robert Lewandowski might play in would not be a problem for the Poland international, according to Messi.

The striker recalled the most recent meeting with FC Bayern in the Champions League. “We remember the last game” said the Argentine ace. The semi-final in the 2012/2013 campaign saw FC Bayern win the first leg 4-0 and the return at the Camp Nou 3-0. Messi, on top of his game with 51 goals in 50 competitive games, declared: “We want to take a different approach this time. It will be a completely different game.”