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Dec 3, 2012

Messi determined to make amends

Lionel Messi says Barcelona are using the disappointment of last season's losses to Real Madrid and Chelsea as motivation to drive towards domestic and European success this time around.

• Ball: When I ruled the world

Pep Guardiola's final year in charge ended with a Copa del Rey success, but that failed to make up for the pain of losing out to Real Madrid in La Liga and Chelsea in the Champions League.

So far this season, under new coach Tito Vilanova, Barca have been in sublime form, finishing top of their Champions League group with a game to spare, while Saturday's 5-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao took them to 13 wins and one draw from their first 14 games - the best Primera Division start by any side since the league began in 1929.

In excerpts from a forthcoming interview with ELF Voetbal, published in the Spanish media on Monday morning, Messi said that the memory of last season was now driving the team forward.

"I do not know what went wrong at the end of last season," Messi said, "but we can use the memory to make sure it does not happen again, so that we have more hunger than ever."

Barca's recent excellent form has coincided with Vilanova finding room for all three of his creative midfield stars in the starting XI. Messi said that Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas brought different qualities to the team.

"Iniesta and Xavi have a lot in common," Messi said. "Andres often plays closer to the goal, but apart from that they are very similar. Xavi does not lose the ball, he has great vision of the play and makes the team. When either has the ball it is difficult for the opponent. (Fabregas and I) understand each other well. We always know what the other wants. It is easy to play with him. We both know the game that Barca want to play."

Midfielder Sergio Busquets spoke with his club's TV station on Sunday, revealing his contentment with how the season was unfolding, but warned fans that Barca could hit a bump at some point of the season.

"I am very happy to have made the best league start because it will always be there, we keep winning and we have positive momentum," Busquets said. "During the year there are runs, the most important is that at the start of the season, and now, nearly all our games in every competition are wins. There is a lot of La Liga still left to play, so we cannot relax."

The 'pivote' also hailed his team-mate Messi, whose two goals against Athletic took him to 84 in 2012, just one behind Gerd Muller's all-time calendar year record of 85.

"He is the best in the world and he always shows it," Busquets said. "He scored two goals and took part in all the attacking moves."

Busquets, a key member of Spain's Euro 2012-winning side, said being named on the 23-man longlist for this year's Ballon d'Or award was recognition of the often unseen work he does on the pitch.

"I work in the dark, so the fact that they recognise you is doubly important," he said. "To be among the 23 nominees was a big prize."

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