Messi gets rare matchup against Argentine club

Argentina international Lionel Messi is looking forward to a new

challenge – playing a club from his native country for the first

time.

European champion Barcelona, playing for a sixth major trophy

in 2009, will face Estudiantes on Saturday in the Club World Cup

final, and the Golden Ball winner will start despite an ankle

injury.

“It’s special to play against them, a very nice thing since

I’ve never played against an Argentine team,” Messi said Friday.

Messi never played in Argentina because Barcelona signed him

from Newell’s Old Boys when he was only a teenager. Now he can help

lead the Catalan club to its first trophy in the Club World Cup in

its third final appearance.

“We’re conscious of what is possible. We have everything we

need,” said Messi, who has scored 15 goals in 22 appearances this

season. “We need to win to close out the year with another title

not only for the historical importance to the club and to world

football.”

Messi said coming up against Juan Sebastian Veron was an

extra incentive since the two bonded when they were Argentina

teammates at the 2007 Copa America.

“We got closer there and he helped to give me a lot of

confidence,” Messi said. “He helped me a lot.”

Messi looked set to start after recovering from an ankle

injury to score with his first touch in the Spanish champion’s 3-1

semifinal win over Mexican club Atlante.

Messi’s not worried about getting banged up by what is

expected to be a physical game.

“They’re like that. But we have to play the same way we

always do,” Messi said. “It’s up to the referee to make the

decisions.”

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said Messi’s incredible season

was a collective effort.

“This has not just been a good year for Leo in his desire to

be the world’s best,” Guardiola said. “It’s also depended on all of

his teammates.”