No time for changes at Barcelona, says Messi
Despite losses to AC Milan and Real Madrid, champion says he hopes the setbacks can lift the giants out of their slump and back to their best form
Agence France-Presse in Madrid
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi believes many people are hoping Barcelona crash out of the Champions League next week so they can call an end to the Catalans' amazing run of success in recent years.
Barca face a huge task to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit against AC Milan at the Camp Nou on Tuesday but Messi said he was hoping the occasion would help lift them out of their recent slump.
"There are a lot of people that are waiting for us to lose so that, like they did last season, they can say this is the end for this Barcelona," he said. "It is time to turn around this situation. It all began in Milan and the return could be the game where we lift ourselves."
It is not just in Europe that Barcelona have struggled of late, though, as back-to-back defeats by Real Madrid have seen them eliminated from the Copa del Rey and their lead at the top of La Liga cut to 11 points. But Messi said he and his teammates were accustomed to the pressures that came with playing and did not see the need for sweeping changes to the squad.
"This club is like this. When you lose two games it is a disaster, when you win two it is normal," he said. "The people in the dressing room have known this club since they were very young and to talk about buying replacements is crazy. The majority of the players are still young."
Teammate Cesc Fabregas has highlighted the importance of getting back to winning ways against Deportivo la Coruna this weekend ahead of the crucial clash with Milan.
"The Milan match is the most important one of the season, but the Deportivo one is important as well," he said.
"We have a good advantage over Atletico Madrid at the top and clearly we want to be league champions. If we don't get a good result or play well then we won't go into Tuesday with the same confidence.
"Everyone believes this team can come back and it is a little unjust that after just three games people have started to doubt this team."
Fabregas is expected to return to the starting line-up today after being an unused substitute in the 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid last weekend, but he insists he won't have a problem if he doesn't get to start the game on Tuesday.
"Over the past seven years with the national team I have almost never been a starter but I have been there in some of the most historic moments," he said.
"Sometimes a substitute can be more important than someone who starts and I feel stronger than ever."
Should Barca slip up, both Real Madrid and Atletico will be looking to take advantage tomorrow night.
It is the champions who are first up as they look to build on an incredibly successful 10 days in which they have beaten Barcelona in the league and progressed to the Copa del Rey final and Champions League quarter-finals with victories away to Barca and Manchester United respectively.
Coach Jose Mourinho is expected to name his strongest side at Celta Vigo after resting several first-team regulars for their past two league games, but Angel di Maria has been ruled out for two weeks with a hamstring problem, whilst both Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso are both doubtful after playing with niggling injuries at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
Atletico face one of the league's in-form sides in Real Sociedad as they try to maintain their 100 per cent record at the Vicente Calderon in the league this season.