Football: Messi, Suarez, Neymar ready for Arsenal

FC Barcelona's Luis Suarez, right, is congratulated by his teammate Messi. Photo / AP.
FC Barcelona's Luis Suarez, right, is congratulated by his teammate Messi. Photo / AP.

Barcelona's strike trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar are ready to weave their magic when the Champions League holders take on Arsenal in the last 16 on Tuesday.

The three forwards share 81 goals from the Spanish league, Copa del Rey, and Champions League this season, and their team heads into the first leg at Emirates Stadium as the clear favorite.

Asked what is involved in coaching such remarkable players, Luis Enrique told a news conference on Monday: "I tell them 'Abracadabra,' and the magic sparks, that's all I do."

More seriously, he added: "It's quite simple, in situations of the game, you don't have to wish what you would like them to do - because they are already doing it. They press, up front, to get the ball from the opponent, and we work hard so that our midfielders can give them the ball. ... It's a pleasure to have these players with me."

Luis Enrique expects a tight game, but one where Barcelona will look to impose its brand of attacking, possession football.

It's certainly worked in the past, with the Catalan side beating Arsenal in both of their previous meetings in the knockout stages, along with the final in 2006.

"I've seen Arsenal before, and also this season, and they are going to press high at some moments," he said.

"But I hope we can keep possession of the ball in their half of the pitch and put into practice our football. Our target is to win the game, no matter what."

The key figure in achieving that is likely to be Messi.

Already hugely influential, Luis Enrique believes he is getting even better."

Last season, he was unbelievable," the coach said. "He did pretty much everything; he scored, he made a defensive sacrifice, he assisted, and this season he is at the same level or even better.

When Lionel Messi goes back to midfield, he becomes the best midfielder, when he plays as a striker he can be a really good scorer, and now he plays on the wing. But he has the freedom to create superiority in certain areas of the pitch. And he's our leader."

-AP

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