Barcelona captain Lionel Messi is reportedly desperate to line up against Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo when the two clubs do battle in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Messi is desperate to play against the player who was his greatest rival during Ronaldo’s seven years at Real Madrid.
And although what Messi wants cuts little slack these days as Ronald Koeman, the Barça coach, has left him out of the team’s last two Champions League games, he is expected to start Messi in Barcelona’s final group game with Juventus.
Messi has been rested in Europe and Barcelona have beaten Dynamo Kiev 4-0 and Ferencvaros 3-0 without him, leaving them safely qualified to the knockout stages and just needing a point on Tuesday to top the group.
But that policy of leaving Messi as a spectator in Europe will be binned on Tuesday, allowing him to face Ronaldo.
Ousmane Dembele’s hamstring injury limits Koeman’s attacking options. He is already missing Ansu Fati, and although he could line up Antoine Griezmann, Martin Braithwaite and Francisco Trincao , both Barcelona and Messi need a major morale boost to lift the gloom around the club after they lost their fourth game of the season at the weekend.
They now find themselves 12 points off the pace in Spain. No team has won the league from that position at this point in the season. Saving Messi for the league is not working and that’s another reason to bring the Argentine back in on Tuesday night.
Messi missed out on his chance to face Ronaldo at the end of October because of the former Real Madrid man tested coronavirus positive. But the six-times Balon d’Or winner can face the five-times winner with the world wondering how many more times the possibility could arise.
They are unlikely to be playing in the same domestic league again so the 33-year-old Messi and the 35-year-old Ronaldo rely on Champions League encounters.
They have met 35 times before but have not been rivals since May 2018 when Barcelona played Real Madrid for the last time before Ronaldo was sold. The game ended 2-2 with both Ronaldo and Messi on the scoresheet.
It was one of nine draws between the two. Messi has won 16 games against Ronaldo who has taken the spoils 10 times.
Not all the Ronaldo vs Messi meetings have been clasicos. They have both won a game each in Portugal vs Argentina matches and three times Messi took on Ronaldo at Manchester United.