Champions League

Lampard: Messi better than Maradona

Clean The Mess-I
Lionel Messi has already scored 63 goals for Barcelona this season.
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Frank Lampard has set goalscoring records that may never be broken but even he is struggling to process the kind of "crazy figures" Lionel Messi will bring to Stamford Bridge in Chelsea's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.

February saw Lampard become the first player to achieve double figures in Barclays Premier League goals for 10 consecutive seasons, while a week ago he became the first midfielder to score 150 in the competition.

The 33-year-old's stunning free-kick in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final thrashing of Tottenham saw him move to within 16 goals of Chelsea's all-time record of 202.

By every conceivable measure, Lampard is one of the great goalscoring midfielders of the modern age.

But then there is Messi.

More than nine years Lampard's junior, he is already Barcelona's record goalscorer, having netted 243 times for them - on 63 occasions this season alone.

What is truly frightening from Chelsea's perspective is that, although Messi has never scored against them, he had only 78 career goals to his name the last time Barca came to Stamford Bridge three years ago.

Lampard said: "He was a fantastic player then, at that stage.

"But what he's doing now, the levels he's taken his game to is something I've never seen before.

"I grew up with (Diego) Maradona - he was my idol as a player - but I think Messi has taken it to probably further levels than him, certainly in his club football.

"To score the 70 goals he'll probably end up with this season, they're crazy figures.

"He deserves it. He's the best player in the world on merit. He's absolutely unbelievable."

Lampard understandably played down his own remarkable exploits after moving within four of another 20-goal campaign.

"I'm pleased to be up there and around that kind of figure," he said.

"I haven't played as many games as I would have liked to this season. If I can get to 20, it'll help us because we've got six or seven games to go now and if I could do that, it will obviously help us."

Lampard was under no illusions of where Wednesday's Barca game lay in terms of challenges he has faced during his long career.

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"It is probably the biggest," he said.

"There are not many teams that you'd fancy over two legs against Barca, the way they've played.

"It's a huge, huge challenge, as big as anyone could probably take on.

"And if we win it, it'll be one of the biggest victories."

Chelsea were written off by some the moment the draw was made.

Lampard, who admitted he expects Barcelona to win every time he watches them play, said: "Everyone has this feeling with Barcelona that they're going to roll over anyone.

"When they're at their best and with the players - particularly Messi - that they have, they can do that.

"We can't show too much fear against them. We have to respect them, but we have to take them on and play the way we play.

"Because, if we've got that, if we play the way we play, we can give anyone in world football a game, including Barcelona.

"And, at Chelsea, we feel like we've given them tough games when we've played them before and we're ready to try to do that again."

Lampard declared himself ready, willing and able to play for the second time in four days after helping Chelsea reach another FA Cup final.

He said after Sunday's 5-1 win: "Barca won't be underestimating us. It's not a warning to them. They will be concentrating on themselves.

"They've proved themselves with the team they are and the players they are.

"What we need to do is worry about ourselves and, if we play the way we did, with the focus and determination we did at Wembley, plus with the abilities we've got in our team then we have to believe we have a chance."
 

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