Fllowing the madness of the UEFA Super Cup in Tbilisi, Barcelona returns home and gets ready to play the Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Bilbao. And one player from the opponent is not exactly looking forward to the game.
Defender Mikel Balenziaga was assigned as an individual marker to stop Lionel Messi on last May’s Copa del Rey Final between Barça and Los Leones at the Camp Nou. Just 20 minutes in, he was completely destroyed by the Argentine, and he was one of the Bilbao players left behind in one of Messi’s signature career goals.
Speaking to the press following Ahtletic’s training session to prepare for the first leg of the Super Cup, to be played on Friday at San Mamés, Balenziaga commented on that iconic final, how difficult it is to defend Messi, and what he expects ahead of the two meetings with the Blaugrana.
Here’s a few highlights:
“I learned we had to have a plan for more than 90 minutes and he still proved to be a player of another level.
“I don’t mean he’s unstoppable, but almost. We tried, we did what we could, and hopefully on Friday we’ll do a bit more.
“When we decided what we were going to do, I was excited. It was a challenge, something I had never done.
“I will always remember I marked a player who is the best in the world. I’d repeat it as often as I could.
“When Messi is in top form, as he was against Sevilla, he’s very difficult to stop. But we can’t get too involved and play their game.
“We’ll have to be careful not to make mistakes. If you don’t have intensity you can’t beat Barcelona.”