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Unpredictable Inter need to improve

Inter Milan
By ESPN Staff

Barca deserve to win in Rome, claims Messi

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi believes the ''mental strength'' his team showed to get past Chelsea shows they deserve to win the Champions League.

Andres Iniesta's stoppage-time equaliser at Stamford Bridge earlier this month saw Pep Guardiola's side eliminate the Blues on away goals in the semi-finals to earn a final date with defending champions Manchester United in Rome next Wednesday.

And Messi reckons the fact his side never gave up when they looked to be heading out in west London will stand them in good stead in the Italian capital.

He told Champions magazine: ''We were suffering right up until stoppage time at Stamford Bridge. But that's one more proof that we deserve to win the Champions League.

''The fact we beat Chelsea, and the manner in which we did it, shows Barcelona aren't just a good team - we have impressive mental strength too.

''In Spain, Chelsea gave us no space. They put four or five men in defence and we couldn't score past them. But that didn't make us give up.

''We were at their place and we were losing from early on but we gave them a fight right to the end. That last move was just glorious - my heart nearly exploded when I saw Iniesta's shot go in.''

Since that night at the Bridge, Barca have clinched Copa del Rey and Primera Division glory and Messi is desperately hoping they can complete phase three of a historic treble next week.

''Winning the Champions League interests me more than anything,'' he said. ''I'm dreaming of Barcelona becoming the Champions League winners. And, at least until 27 May, no-one can take that dream away from me.

''The Champions League final will be the most fantastic thing that has happened to me in all my life. These are incredible moments you can't really explain with words; in a match like the one in Rome, the whole world is hanging on your every move.''

The match pits Messi against 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, but the South American knows United are far from a one-man team.

''They're a great team, Manchester,'' he said. ''If you go through the whole squad, you'd be hard pushed to know which player to choose if you had to pick just one.

''But clearly you have to start with Cristiano, a great forward who can gambetea [a South American term for dribbling with feints/checks/swerves/tricks] with speed and ease.

''And he has a great medium-range shot. We're conscious that in Rome we can't give him time to think or get a shot in from distance. He's a great footballer.''

Still, Barca will be focusing on their own game and trying to finish off an already-memorable first season under rookie coach Guardiola in style.

''Guardiola is a piece of history, so he understood straight away how to speak to the players about the way to play football at this club,'' Messi said of the 38-year-old, who took up the Nou Camp reins last summer.

''So we were soon in tune with his playing style. For example, a couple of times he played me in positions where I didn't think I'd be able to give my maximum, like when I played as a deep-lying number nine against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu [Messi scored twice as Barca won 6-2 on May 2].

''But he explained to me that I could play there - and in that area, a few metres deeper than where a number nine usually operates, I was going to hurt Real. And he was right. Pep knows a lot. You can tell that very quickly. He's very hard-working, modest and optimistic.''


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