Sport Soccer

Saturday 23 September 2017

Messi sends ominous warning to City

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

Chris Bascombe

Lionel Messi has warned Manchester City he will be fully fit and ready to destroy their Champions League hopes when Barcelona arrive next month.

The Argentinian has been struggling with injury but returned earlier this month and now -- no doubt motivated by his wish to win back the Ballon d'Or from Cristiano Ronaldo -- he has City in his sights.

"I will be at 100pc in a few weeks and certainly expect to be at my best when we face Manchester City," said Messi. "The Champions League remains the big target."

It is an ominous warning for Manuel Pellegrini's side. The first leg of the Champions League last-16 meeting is still a month away, on February 18, by which time the 26-year-old should be in peak form.

He made his comeback from a hamstring injury on January 8, scoring twice in a 4-0 win over Getafe, showing no ill effects from a 59-day absence.

Messi offered a dignified response to losing the Ballon d'Or title he had held for the previous three years, although the fact neither player voted for the other blew away the pretence of mutual appreciation.

"It was a deserved recognition for Cristiano. I don't know if my last injury affected the result," said Messi.

"The truth is I was out of action for a long time. When Fifa changed the voting deadline I was injured and away from all that. Cristiano won it and there's nothing more to say."

Messi will see the World Cup and the Champions League as the ideal opportunity to re-establish his position as No 1, but he denied it has become a personal battle with Ronaldo. "It's not between Cristiano and me, the battle is between Barcelona and Real Madrid as well as Atletico Madrid," he said.

City host Blackburn Rovers in their FA Cup third-round replay tonight. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

MANCHESTER CITY V BLACKBURN ROVERS,

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