Lionel Messi acknowledges that a Champions League final against arch rivals Real Madrid at Wembley would undoubtedly be a dream spectacle, but the Barcelona star says he and his team-mates are currently focused on nothing other than their semi-final duel with newly crowned German champions Bayern Munich. Ahead of the first-leg in Munich, the Argentine ace underlines that his team will need a special performance to overcome the Germans whom he knows will be full of desire to make up for last season’s heart-breaking final defeat on their home ground.
Q) We are getting to the real sharp end of the Champions League with the semi-finals now, Lionel; how big is the desire at Barca to be crowned European champions this year?
A) "For a club like Barcelona, fighting to win the Champions League is an absolute must. The players want to repeat the experience of recent years and dream of making it to the end again."
Q) How difficult is the tie against German giants Bayern Munich and how highly do you rate Bayern having seen their exploits this season? They have won the Bundesliga by a big margin already!
A) "Any opponent in these semi-finals was going to be tough, but Bayern this year are very, very good. They have been playing at a very high level and scoring a lot of goals. After what happened at the end of 2012, when they lost the final at their own ground to Chelsea, I think they have even more desire to go for the title this time. And Bayern is stronger this year than last in my opinion."
Q) How big an advantage is it for Barcelona to play the second leg at home in front of your own fans at the Nou Camp?
A) "At this stage of the tournament, I don't think it has a big effect whether you play the first game of a semi-final at home or away. But it does not hurt to play the deciding match in the Nou Camp of course!"
Q) Your former manager Pep Guardiola will be at Bayern next year. Will he make them an even better team do you think?
A) "All I can say is that Pep Guardiola is a great coach and I am convinced that Bayern will make a great project for him. Undoubtedly! I'm sure they will do well under him."
Q) Will it be strange to play against a Guardiola team one day and see him in the opposition?
A) "Maybe. But Guardiola is a great coach and a great professional - and when he faces you he will want to beat Barca. That is normal."
Q) Do you think he will return to Barcelona one day?
A) "I do not know what will Pep do in the future, you will have to ask him. But at this club, he is an idol for the fans. So let's see."
Q) Fans all over the world are talking about the possibility of Barca v Real at Wembley! Are the players talking about it too? What would it be like to play Real Madrid in a Champions League Final at Wembley? Is it your dream final or would you rather face somebody else?
A) "Right now, we do not speak of the end or the final but only about Bayern. And if we get to the final we do not care who we play as long as we are there again. But it is indisputable that a final at Wembley against Real Madrid would be a special game for many things and many people. If it is Real in the final at Wembley it will be a great show, that's for sure."
Q) Everyone knows Real Madrid are chasing their 10th European Cup. Do you think Barcelona will catch or overtake them one day?
A) "Will Barcelona reach 10 Champions League titles? Well, why not? Already we are on the way! It would be a big, big achievement and it will not be easy but we are capable, for certain."
Q) Barcelona have some wonderful memories of Wembley - including beating Man United there. Is it a special stadium for you?
A) "Wembley is a place for world football history, and personally, that final we won against Manchester United will always be in our heads and in our memories. It was a special day for Barcelona."
Q) What is your favourite memory from Wembley last time?
A) "The goal I scored will always be in my mind - I'll never forget it - and also the moment when we lifted the cup. That was a very emotional day for me many reasons."
Q) It clearly meant a lot to everyone in Barcelona?
A) "It did. Besides being the last European Cup that we won under Guardiola, what made it extra special was to do it against an English side the likes of United. That gives even more value still to the title."
Q) Now of course you want to do it again, under a new manager. How important has the return of Tito Vilanova been for Barcelona after his recent illness?
A) "It has made us very happy to see him back. Vilanova is the coach and team leader. The players have suffered from his absence but we have isolated ourselves from everything and we just thought about winning. Now he is back and the dream is to be able to give him the final at Wembley and the title to go with it."
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