Messi aiming to make it a Barcelona treble
Lionel Messi insists Barcelona can match their feat of two years ago in adding the Club World Cup to their Champions League and Primera Division titles.
In 2009, the FIFA club trophy was the icing on the cake for an all-conquering Barcelona side.
This year Barcelona are one trophy down on 2009 having lost the Copa del Rey to Real Madrid — and they face serious opposition in the Club World Cup in Japan from South American champions Santos, finally emerging from the shadows of the Pele-led side of the 1960s.
Santos also boast a new footballing superstar in Neymar, but Messi is confident Barcelona can emerge triumphant again.
He said: “We're always under the obligation to win. To my mind it's a really important tournament and we'll try to come out on top, just as we always do.
“We can't afford to relax either. Everyone thought the two favourites were going to reach the final last time and Internacional (of Brazil) fell short.
“We know what we're capable of and how far we can go. We've got a lot of games to get through, that's true, and it's never easy to play one match after the other and maintain top form.
“We're staying cool, calm and collected, and nobody knows what this team's capable of better than we do.”
Santos won back-to-back Intercontinental Cups in 1962 and 1963 and though Neymar is only 19 he has already caught the eye of Barcelona midfielder Xavi.
“Neymar is very talented and has amazing ability,” said Xavi.
The opening match of the tournament is tomorrow when Kashiwa Reysol of host nation Japan take on New Zealand's Auckland City at the Toyota Stadium in Nagoya, with the winners meeting Monterrey of Mexico in the quarter-finals.
The victor in that will face Santos in the semi-finals.
In the other quarter-final, Qatar side Al Sadd, the Asian Champions League winners, will meet African champions Esperance from Tunisia with whoever triumphs going on to meet Barcelona for a place in the final.