Vermaelen will not fear Messi
Thomas Vermaelen knows Arsenal cannot afford to worry about Lionel Messi when they take on Barcalona.
Last Updated: 01/04/10 10:39am
Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen insists there will be "no time" for his side to be concerned with the exploits of Barcelona's Lionel Messi in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie on Wednesday.
The two sides square up at Emirates Stadium for the first leg encounter with all the pre-match talk focused on the tricky Argentina ace.
Arsenal have concerns over the fitness of influential captain Cesc Fabregas, meanwhile Barca are sweating over Andres Iniesta, however the threat of Messi could be the difference between the two teams.
Not that it is causing Vermaelen any concern, though, with the Belgium defender vowing his team would be focusing on their own strengths - rather than the potential problems caused by the 22-year-old Catalan star.
Vermaelen said: "We are not focused on individuals, because we have to play our own game and play as a team. You are aware of the qualities of the opponents, but you also know what your own strengths are.
"Messi is a very good player, one of the best players in the world. Of course you enjoy watching him play, because he is a real footballer. However, there will be no time to be intimidated tomorrow.
"You do not have to be nervous or look at individual players. You have to be focused on your own performance and the team's performance. You cannot look at how great Messi is, because you have to play your own game."
Barca are the tournament favourites and will be looking to see off the threat of Arsene Wenger's team in a rematch of the 2006 final.
The Camp Nou outfit came out on top on that occasion and also defeated English opposition in the form of Manchester United last year to claim their third European title.
And while Barca are hotly tipped to increase their tally of triumphs, Vermaelen insists he is not phased by the tough task of overcoming Pep Guardiola's team.
The former Ajax man recognised the challenge facing his side if they were to overcome their Spanish opponents - however he retained the belief that they were capable of progressing to the last four.
"It is one of the biggest games you can play in, against one of the best sides in the world," he continued. "However, it is important to play as a team and hopefully we can show how good we are.
"We have to be mentally strong and we have showed that this season. If you want to win the Champions League, you have to beat the best teams."