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'Thousands have tried' — Bayern ponder how to stop Messi

By AFP - Aug 13,2020 - Last updated at Aug 13,2020

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (AFP photo)

LISBON — Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka said the German giants are working out how to curb the legendary talents of Barcelona star Lionel Messi ahead of Friday's Champions League quarter-final.

"Thousands of people before me have tried to answer this question," Goretzka replied Tuesday in Lisbon when asked how to stop Messi.

"It is nice — after playing against [Juventus star Cristiano] Ronaldo a few times — to play the other formative player of the last decade.

"That can only be done collectively," the 25-year-old central midfielder said of Messi, "because he is a gifted footballer".

"I don't know how, but we have to force our game on them."

Messi scored his 31st goal this season on Saturday and is looking to lift the Champions League for the fifth time in his career with Barcelona.

Treble-chasing Bayern, however, have won all 13 games since the coronavirus lockdown restart.

They underlined their impressive form on Saturday when Robert Lewandowski, the Champions League's top scorer, netted twice and created two more in the last 16, second-leg rout of Chelsea to seal a 7-1 thrashing on aggregate.

Bayern are chasing the treble having already won an eighth straight Bundesliga title and lifted the German Cup, but Goretzka says Barcelona present a true test.

"There is no easy way now. We are here in the sun in Portugal and are preparing for a knockout game in the Champions League," he said.

"We're really up for it. Knockout matches are great."

While Barcelona are packed with stars alongside Messi, Goretzka says Bayern are far more than just Lewandowski's goals. 

"At the moment, we're playing as a unit, in addition to the quality of the individual players.

"We have a clear plan in hand and our intensity without the ball can make the difference." 

But he admitted being wary of Arturo Vidal, Barca's ex-Bayern midfielder.

"I got to know him for a few weeks and played against him many times. He has a first-class mentality with amazing fitness," added Goretzka.

"I noticed that during fitness tests — which I took next to him — he can go beyond the pain threshold."

 

Hansi Flick says treble-chasing Bayern must adapt quickly to the heat in Portugal as they fine-tune preparations for Friday's quarter-final with Jerome Boateng and Kingsley Coman fit again.

Flick oversaw training on Monday in temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius at Bayern's training camp in Lagos in south-west Portugal.

Both centre-back Boateng, who picked up a leg injury in Saturday's last 16 return leg against Chelsea, and winger Coman, who missed the 4-1 victory with a knock, trained on Monday and are in the frame to face Barca.

"It's very important that we get used to the temperatures," said Flick, although cooler temperatures are forecast for Friday's tie in Lisbon.

Bayern underlined their status as one of the favourites to lift the Champions League trophy on August 23 as Robert Lewandowski scored twice and set up two more goals in the rout of Chelsea.

It sealed a 7-1 thrashing on aggregate, with the Bundesliga champions and German Cup holders having won all 12 of their games since the restart in mid-May following the coronavirus shutdown.

They are determined to repeat their 2013 treble in Flick's first season in charge.

"We shouldn't say now that we are in Portugal, near the sea and we're off on our holidays," said Bayern forward Thomas Mueller.

The Bavarians touched down in Portugal on Sunday in confident mood with Mueller insisting they are focused but must stay "loose" and relaxed.

"We have to train cleverly — and be cunning," added Mueller.

"A good mixture is important, we have to create a feel-good factor."

While Bayern were busy dispatching Chelsea, Barcelona swept into the quarter-finals with 3-1 home win over Napoli after a 1-1 draw in the first leg last February.

"It's full speed ahead. We're really looking forward to the game," said Mueller.

However, he emphasised that Bayern call ill afford to "focus" solely on Lionel Messi. 

"That's the big problem," he explained. "Barca has a lot of strong players who you have to watch out for."

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