Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has admitted he has an excellent recent record against Lionel Messi, while warning that the Argentina captain was capable of personally deciding Saturday's World Cup quarterfinal in Brasilia.
Messi fired a long range free-kick past Courtois in Barcelona's 2-1 win at the Vicente Calderon in February 2012, and also scored twice in a 4-1 victory at the Camp Nou in December of that year.
However since then Courtois has shut out Messi in their last seven meetings across La Liga, the Champions League and the Spanish Supercopa, with the Blaugrana star's lack of impact in those games frustrating both himself and his club's fans and pundits.
The Chelsea-owned keeper has also been in excellent form so far at the World Cup, keeping two clean sheets in four games -- conceding just a penalty against Algeria in their opener and late in extra-time to Julian Green of the U.S. in the round of 16.
Messi's form at the current competition is however much better than his recent showings at club level -- with four goals scored and four man of the match trophies received in his four outings to date.
Courtois, 22, said in ESPN Deportes that his experience of thwarting Messi at club level would be useful, although he remained well aware of the four time Ballon d'Or winner's ability to decide a game in an instant.
"I know very well how to play against Messi," Courtois said. "We have come up against each other in various games between Atletico and Barcelona, although on those occasions the defeats were not his fault. Messi is a sensational player. He can decide a game in a second."
Courtois said that Argentina also had impressive other options in attack, however he felt Belgium could find weaknesses in the Albiceleste back line.
"Saturday's game will be a huge one, because Argentina have a great team, and we are showing that we are growing into the tournament," he said.
"I hope we can win, but it will be tough. To hold on in defence we must be very well organised. Argentina have a very good attack, which does not just depend on Messi, there is also [Gonzalo] Higuain, [Angel] Di Maria, [Ezequiel] Lavezzi, [Sergio] Aguero, but at the back they are not so strong. That is where we can do them damage."
Having impressed during the last three seasons on loan at Atletico, Courtois is widely expected to return to Chelsea for the 2014-15 campaign. However he admitted to maintaining regular contact with Colchoneros coach Diego Simeone.
"We are always exchanging messages," he said. "We do not talk about the Argentina team, it is other things."