Cesc Fabregas has vowed to put his friendship with Lionel Messi to one side as he bids to help Chelsea defeat Barcelona in the Champions League.
Reigning Premier League champions Chelsea travel to the Nou Camp on Wednesday evening for the return leg of their last-16 clash with Barca. Last month’s first leg at Stamford Bridge finished 1-1, with Messi cancelling out Willian’s opener with his first goal against Chelsea from nine games.
Four-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi has scored 35 goals in 45 games this season – and five in his last four – but Fabregas is determined to cause the Argentine some problems.
‘If I am lucky enough to play, we are positioned in nearby areas of the pitch,’ Fabregas told Marca. ‘Stopping him will be difficult but I will do everything possible so that he feels uncomfortable and can’t put together a perfect performance.
‘I see him as a rival who wants to win, and I want the same thing. We are in different teams and each player wants what is best for their own club.
Obviously, you always have respect for each other. ‘It doesn’t bother me to play against my previous club or old friends, it motivates me. I did it with Arsenal and now with Chelsea, I’ve felt pretty good on both occasions.
‘Nobody should doubt that I want the best for my current club. In fact, it gives me extra motivation.’ Fabregas also admitted he was unsure whether he would celebrate if scoring against his former club Barcelona.
‘Honestly, I haven’t thought about it [celebrating] at all,’ the Spanish midfielder added. ‘I’ve only scored two goals this season and it’s been a while since my last goal. ‘There are feelings at such a moment that you can’t predict, I can’t definitively say I won’t celebrate, but it’s unlikely I would.
‘I don’t think I’ll get many chances due to the position I play, what [Antonio Conte] asks of me is different to others. You never know in football and I hope it can happen, but I haven’t thought about it. ‘My return in Barcelona is not important. The game between Chelsea and Barça is all that matters.’
Chelsea have lost three of their last five Premier League fixtures to slip out of the top four and Charlie Nicholas cannot see Antonio Conte’s side progressing in Europe. ‘Barcelona have improved defensively but you can still get at them because of their attacking intent,’ the former Arsenal star told Sky Sports.
‘I think if they’ve got Alvaro Morata or Giroud up top then at least they’ll be able to hold the ball up on a few occasions and give Hazard the chance of getting the ball in areas he can do damage.
‘However, I can see him having another frustrating evening, knowing he’s not got the supply or support to show his potential, and will be left day dreaming of playing against Barca for Real Madrid next season. ‘Lionel Messi had a nice rest at the weekend to be ready for this one, so I don’t give Chelsea much hope at all.’