BARCELONA – FC Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic said on Tuesday that his captain Lionel Messi’s enormous desire to win the Champions League has spread across the club.
The Catalan side is set to host England’s Liverpool at Camp Nou stadium in the first leg of the semifinals on Wednesday.
“When the captain says one thing, all the others are to follow the path he has set for the team, he takes the lead and we follow him,” Rakitic said at a pre-game press conference in the club’s grounds.
The Champions League is the competition that Messi highlighted in a pre-season interview as his side’s first priority this season, as Barcelona is keen to bring the trophy back to Camp Nou, four years after it last won the trophy.
The Croatian midfielder said that the squad is ready to compete at the highest level in the difficult tie against its English rival.
“We are confident and eager, the team is very switched on and now comes the most beautiful game,” he said.
“We are prepared and with an incredible desire to win, it will be very important to score and keep a clean sheet.”
Having secured the La Liga cup and reached the Copa del Rey final, Rakitic said he hopes Barcelona will have a perfect season by winning a treble.
Head coach Ernesto Valverde warned that Liverpool is able to pose a threat in attack.
“Liverpool is a very powerful team, who play with a great level of pressure and rhythm,” he said.
“They will be a very difficult opponent to beat.”
He added: “Our intention is to win, but we know the value of stopping them from scoring. We have to play two good matches.”
Valverde said he believes that the current Liverpool squad “is not so different” from the team that played in the final last season, against eventual champion Real Madrid.
“It has changed some players, but it is similar in style and personality, recognizable and fearsome,” he added.
The Spanish coach called on fans to continue their support for the team.
“The crowd at Camp Nou is already playing a decisive role,” he said.
“For several weeks now, more than 90,000 fans attend the stadium, and that is what we notice and (our) rivals too.”