Messi gets rare matchup against Argentine club

BY foxsports • December 18, 2009

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."

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