Lionel Messi is looking forward to a “difficult” test following Barcelona being drawn alongside AC Milan, Ajax and Celtic in the Champions League in what is the consensus “Group of Death” in this year’s tournament.
After a 7-0 aggregate defeat at the hands of Bayern in last year’s semifinals, Barcelona will be in tough against Mario Balotelli and AC Milan as well as a Celtic side that upset the La Liga giants at Celtic Park in the group stages in the 2012/13 tournament. If things couldn’t get any more difficult an always strong Ajax side will see Messi travel to Amsterdam for a difficult string of fixtures this fall as Barca try to get back on top of Europe after two years of missing the final.
Speaking after missing out on UEFA’s Best Player in Europe award to Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, Messi also recognised that it will be a difficult group for Barca.
“This season’s group will not be easy, but we are looking forward to some good games,” he said. “You don’t get any easy groups, but this is a nice one. We played Milan and Celtic last season, and it is our first time against Ajax. It will be a difficult group.”
Despite that difficulty, Messi claims that Barca should still expect to contend for the Champions League title.
“Bayern were superb last season and better than Barcelona,” Messi said. “But hopefully this season we can do better. When you play for a club like Barcelona, the only option is to try and win it all.”
Messi and Barca had an off year in Pep Guardiola’s first year away from managing the club. Despite winning the La Liga title their exit against Bayern was a sign that the rest of Europe has caught up to the Spanish giants. Still a tough group to start the tournament doesn’t rattle Messi, who is confident that Barca will be silencing those who have projected the rest of Europe’s best to surpass them this year.