Spain's David De Gea eager for 'challenge' of facing Lionel Messi
Spain goalkeeper David De Gea is excited about the prospect of facing fit-again Lionel Messi in Tuesday's friendly against Argentina.
The Argentina captain missed his team's 2-0 win over Italy on Friday with a sore right adductor muscle but trained on Sunday and Monday in Madrid and is set to feature against Spain at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
"We want to face the best players and Messi is one of them," the Manchester United keeper said in Monday's news conference."As a goalkeeper it's a challenge to face Messi."
Spain, like Argentina, are preparing for this summer's World Cup and head into the encounter at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium on the back of Friday's 1-1 draw with Germany. Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno started and scored Spain's goal in Dusseldorf.
"We are going through a good spell," De Gea said. "We have to maintain this line and hope to arrive in the best form possible at the World Cup.
"We have a wonderful group, we get on well together and that is also transmitted on the pitch. We have ambition, enthusiasm and a great group."
Spain's Thiago Alcantara knows how vital Messi's presence will be because he played with the football icon at Barcelona for four seasons before joining Bayern Munich in 2013.
"I think it's important for Messi to be in the game, not just because of the spectacle for world football but because we always want to play and face the best," the Spanish midfielder said. "We want to be the best and in order to become that, we need to face the best."
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui said Messi's presence will not affect his team's style of play.
"When we prepare a game, we don't think too much about who we face although we're aware of who we shave in front of us," he said. "I think it's going to be a beautiful game against the World Cup runners-up, against one of the best players in history and that is exciting for us. We want to play a great game and leave with a good feeling.
"We played a good game against Germany and we have to prepare well for tomorrow's game."
While Spain went unbeaten in qualifying, winning nine of their 10 games, Argentina struggled and only sealed a ticket to Russia in their final qualifier, a 3-1 win at Ecuador on Oct. 10, courtesy of Messi's hat trick.
Lopetegui believes Argentina have become a better side since Sampaoli took over last summer.
"I think collectively they have improved with Sampaoli's arrival, not just in attack but also in defence," he said. "You can see the work of the coach, how Argentina's play has evolved since he took over."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.