Barcelona manager Ronaldo Koeman insists he is looking forward to the challenge of taking on Juventus after Thursday’s Champions League draw pitched two heavyweights of the European game against each other.
The Catalan giants’ fall from grace meant that after their failure to defend their La Liga crown they were relegated to pot two and were therefore liable to face the champions from one of the continents three other big leagues.
Ultimately, Barcelona were paired with the kings of Serie A which has thrown up the intriguing prospect of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo locking horns with one another at this stage of the competition for the very first time.
Reacting to that prospect, Koeman said after last night’s 3-0 win over Celta Vigo: ‘We can be happy about the draw. Juve and Barca are the two best teams in the group but it will have to be proven.’
Messi appears to have firmly put this summer’s controversy and his transfer request behind him. The 33-year-old, who was forced into making a dramatic U-turn following Barcelona’s reluctance to sanction his departure, played a key role last night as Koeman’s new-look side continued their flawless start to the new campaign.
Although he failed to get on the scoresheet, Messi was a constant menace and his manager was particularly impressed with the 33-year-old’s work rate and application against a side who have caused Barcelona problems on their own patch in the recent past.
‘Leo worked hard without the ball and that’s an important factor,’ said the Dutchman whose team had to cope with the early dismissal of .defender Clement Lenglet.
‘I’m very proud of this team today, we have worked very well, with one player less.”
‘I can’t say much about last season, but from day one I’ve seen the players very eager and eager to turn the situation around. The players are training very well, and we’re better physically.’