Cristiano Ronaldo insisted he never saw Lionel Messi as a rival after Juventus brushed past Barcelona in the Champions League.

Ronaldo converted two penalties and Weston McKennie also scored at Camp Nou, where Juve claimed a 3-0 win and top spot in Group G on Tuesday.

Messi had a game-high 11 shots, including seven on target, but Barca fell as he faced Ronaldo – who starred during nine seasons in LaLiga with Real Madrid – once more.

Ronaldo, who shared a brief embrace with Messi before the clash, said there was no rivalry between the two all-time greats.

"I have always had a very cordial relationship with him," the Juve star told Movistar+.

"I shared 12, 13 or 14 years of award ceremonies with him. I never saw him as a rival.

"He always tries to do what is best for his team and me too. I always got along very well with him.

"But we know that in football, for the press, for the show, a rivalry is sought, but I have always gotten along well with him. I see him as always."

Since 2003-04, Messi's seven shots on target were the most a player has had in a single Champions League match without scoring. His 11 in total was also the most in a game without scoring in the competition.

But Ronaldo scored his first goals against Barca in the Champions League (in his sixth appearance) and 133rd and 134th goals in the competition.

"Barcelona are going through a difficult time, but it is still Barcelona," Ronaldo said.

"The truth is that we are very happy, we knew it was an almost impossible mission, it was a complicated mission and we played well.

"The key was to get into the game well, we scored two early and from there we believed it was possible."

Lionel Messi had a record seven shots on target without scoring in Barcelona's 3-0 Champions League defeat to Juventus, which Antoine Griezmann acknowledged must be a wake-up call.

Messi was heavily involved as Barca attempted to mount a comeback on Tuesday after conceding twice in the first 20 minutes of a Champions League home match for the first time.

The superstar captain had more touches (125) and contested more duels (19) than any other player on the Camp Nou pitch.

Messi also sent in 11 shots, seven of which hit the target, but he could not beat veteran Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whose shirt the former took away at full-time.

Instead it was old rival Cristiano Ronaldo who carried his side to the top of Champions League Group G, scoring two penalties either side of Weston McKennie's volley.

Those were Ronaldo's first goals against Barca in the competition after drawing a blank on five occasions.

It was Messi's turn to fall short in front of goal as, since Opta records began in 2003-04, no other player has had seven efforts on target without finding the net.

However, Messi was the only Barca player to actually test Buffon, with eight of the nine attempts from his team-mates missing the target and Martin Braithwaite seeing the other blocked.

Griezmann accounted for three wayward efforts and did not hold back in his criticism of a blunt Barca performance.

"There was a lack of desire, of attitude. It was all wrong," he said. "A bad day, a bad game.

"The fault lies with the players - we are the ones who play. We have to work. We have to win on Sunday [against Levante] because it gets more complicated for us if not.

"Today has been very ugly. We have the level to fight for our objectives. This is a blow, but it comes in handy to wake us up."

Barca head coach Ronald Koeman added: "We started the game badly, without aggression. It seemed that we were playing not to lose. We were not in control.

"We have not been good defensively. We lost the game in the first half hour. I always try to prepare the game, how they have to go. We left spaces.

"You can also discuss penalties. For me, the first is not a penalty. But it was our fault."

Cristiano Ronaldo says Juventus have "nothing to fear" after their dominant 3-0 win over Barcelona.

Ronaldo converted a penalty in each half as his great rival Lionel Messi toiled in vain - the margin of victory enough for Juve to pip Barca to top spot in Champions League Group G.

After numerous memorable battles at Camp Nou in the white of Real Madrid, the 35-year-old revelled in the most impressive moment of Juventus' fledgling Andrea Pirlo era.

"Always great to return to Spain and to Catalunya, always hard to play in Camp Nou against one of the best teams I ever faced," Ronaldo tweeted.

"Today we were a team of Champions! A true, strong and united family!

"Playing like this, we have nothing to fear until the end of the season… Let's go!"

It's never been his style, but perhaps Lionel Messi should have come up with a signature celebration.

What could prove to be the final encounter between the two greatest footballers of the 21st century was shot through with familiar images.

There was Cristiano Ronaldo, coolly dispatching a pair of penalties in a deserved 3-0 win for Juventus at Camp Nou.

When the ball rippled Marc-Andre ter Stegen's net, we knew what was coming. Off he tore in celebration - a jump, a twist, arms thrust out by his side. "SIIIUUUUUU!!!".

There was also Barcelona again flailing hopelessly out of their depth against elite European opposition - a repeated picture with another recognisable frame.

As Ronald Koeman's men tamely relinquished top spot in Group G, Messi's sad and slumped figure padded around the centre circle.

Any closer look at his features revealed a tired anguish and the weight of the world. He used to only look like this when he happened upon Argentina's biennial major tournament catastrophes.

Now, for the team lying ninth in LaLiga - the team of his life who he tried and failed to leave after their biggest humiliation - dejection feels like Messi's default.

Paris, Turin, Rome, Anfield, Lisbon and now this, the first time fortress Camp Nou had been breached in 38 Champions League games. Each time, the camera falls on Messi, trudging through rubble that becomes harder to rebuild after each wrecking ball hit.

Barcelona remain in this season's Champions League, so defeat on Wednesday does not carry the same meaning as those ignominious knockout stage thrashings. But all they had to do here was not mess up terribly - just don't lose by three goals and you win the group - and they couldn't manage it.

Juve scented blood early on, zipping after their opponents. The decision to award Ronaldo a soft 12th-minute penalty was perhaps propelled by reputation. His conversion was never in doubt. The result felt just as certain when Weston McKinnie crowned a move so good the entire Barcelona defence stood around to watch it.

Messi, to his credit, never stopped probing in a vain attempt to find answers beyond his colleagues. In truth, when Martin Braithwaite is the man chosen to come on at half-time to save Barcelona against Juventus, there are an awful lot of questions.

The deeper the hole Barca find themselves in nowadays, the deeper Messi tends to come for possession. "Fine, I'll do it myself."

He had 11 of the hosts' 20 shots, including all seven to test fellow great Gianluigi Buffon. Messi had more touches (125), contested more duels (19) and attempted more passes in the opposition half (82) than any of his team-mates.

By contrast, Ronaldo could lurk with intent on the margins. He touched the ball 48 times, contested three duels and had only one shot other than his penalties.

The upshot was the 35-year-old could scamper back towards his own penalty area in the 81st minute and dispossess Messi's latest forlorn assault on the massed ranks of black and white.

He loved it, just as much as he loved a triumphant slow strut around the Camp Nou pitch and back to the dugouts after his stoppage-time substitution. Those two moments combined the sort of verve and mischief that are possible when a supreme player has 12 goals in 10 games this season, apparently without a care in the world.

The madness of the Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry tends to drain such sensations in those who linger in its clutches too long. The fervour was never greater than when Messi and Ronaldo were at their peak.

Away from that tumult, Ronaldo is basking in his autumn years with a twinkle in his eye. Meanwhile, Messi meanders on joylessly, shoved along by professional pride and contractual obligation.

The pure pleasure in the play of his great rival offered a clear indication of why he wanted out. What was once unthinkable is now clear: any final triumphs in possibly the greatest career of them all are far more likely if Messi can extract himself from the Barcelona circus.

Leonardo Bonucci claimed Juventus' 3-0 win at Barcelona was "even more beautiful" than the Camp Nou stalemate that booked their place in the 2016-17 Champions League final.

Juventus seized top spot in Group G on Tuesday with a deserved victory in Catalonia, where they had to better Barca's 2-0 triumph in the reverse fixture.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a pair of penalties either side of Weston McKennie's volley as Juve were again able to celebrate on the Camp Nou pitch.

Serie A champions Juve had visited Barca in the 2017 semi-finals and drew 0-0 to successfully defend a 3-0 aggregate advantage.

But despite the relative weakness of opponents Barca this time, the win was of particular note as the first time the Blaugrana had lost at home in the Champions League since 2013.

That statistic was put to Bonucci, although Lionel Messi's absence in that 3-0 reverse at the hands of Bayern Munich – the superstar was an unused substitute – was also referenced.

Not since going down 2-1 to Rubin Kazan in 2009 had Barca lost at home in Europe with Messi in the side.

Bonucci told Sky Sport: "We had a great desire to achieve this feat beyond the historical relevance.

"We had already come here a few years ago and brought home a 0-0 after winning the first leg 3-0. This one is even more beautiful.

"It was a great team effort and when you go out on the pitch with this nastiness, with this desire to sacrifice yourself and with a player like Cristiano, who is a sure-fire sniper, we were sure to do this kind of game.

"But I repeat: it was a great team effort. Now we recover, we have to think about the match in Genoa on Sunday, because even in the league we have to repeat performances like this."

Juve are fourth in Serie A but were good value for their victory despite having just eight shots – to Barca's 20 – and 41.1 per cent of the possession.

Bonucci, who was required to make only a pair of clearances and a single tackle, added: "We brought home the first place, which was important not only for the remainder of the Champions League but for ourselves, for this group [of players].

"It cultivates within us the awareness and belief that playing matches in this way we can do great things."

Cristiano Ronaldo's first Champions League goals against Barcelona helped Juventus to a stunning 3-0 away win to top Group G.

The Bianconeri had lost 2-0 in Turin in the reverse fixture as an absent Ronaldo recovered from coronavirus, meaning they would have to improbably better that result at Camp Nou to leapfrog their hosts.

But Barca's recent defensive woes continued on Tuesday and two Ronaldo penalties - one contentious, the other routine - and a Weston McKennie volley carried Juve to a deserved victory.

Ronaldo had not previously netted in five European matches against the Blaugrana yet delighted in piling further pressure on under-fire home coach Ronald Koeman, whose side are ninth in LaLiga.

The Portuguese - meeting Lionel Messi for the first time as a Juve player - stuck to the script as he made the most of a generous early penalty award after Ronald Araujo appeared to get his body between man and ball in the box, dispatching his spot-kick down the centre of the goal.

It was two after just 20 minutes - the earliest Barca have ever conceded twice in a home Champions League game - with the defence this time afforded no excuse.

McKennie moved the ball wide to Juan Cuadrado and was allowed to meet the subsequent cross completely unimpeded with a close-range scissor kick.

Half-time then disrupted an improving home display and Barca were dealt a further blow five minutes after the restart as Clement Lenglet was deemed to have handled, following a VAR check, and Ronaldo was again clinical from 12 yards.

Messi's free-kick was nodded onto the top of the crossbar by Antoine Griezmann, who was denied a penalty due to offside as pressure again built on the Juve goal and Matthijs de Ligt dived in rashly.

A VAR call belatedly went Barca's way when Ronaldo bundled the ball onto an offside Leonardo Bonucci, seeing a fourth goal struck off, but it did not impact an eye-catching result.

Barcelona conceded two goals inside the opening 20 minutes of a home Champions League match for the first time in their clash with Juventus on Tuesday.

After winning a contentious penalty, Cristiano Ronaldo – who missed the reverse fixture as he recovered from COVID-19 – scored his first Champions League goal against Barcelona and Lionel Messi at the sixth attempt.

Ronaldo has now scored 13 goals against Barca at Camp Nou in all competitions – more than at any other away stadium in his club career – with two of them coming from the penalty spot.

Ronald Koeman's side, who lost to Cadiz in LaLiga at the weekend, had won their previous five European games and needed only to avoid a two-goal defeat to top Group G, with both sides already through.

Yet they were further behind in the 20th minute, with United States international Weston McKennie volleying in from close range to condemn the Blaugrana to their worst start to a Champions League game at Camp Nou.

Barca improved before the break, with Messi heavily involved as a couple of efforts were well saved by Gianluigi Buffon and a penalty appeal was waved away despite lengthy VAR check.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have both been included from the start for Tuesday's Champions League clash between Barcelona and Juventus.

Ronaldo missed the previous meeting between the sides after testing positive for coronavirus, with Messi scoring a stoppage-time penalty in a 2-0 away Barca win.

That result means the Blaugrana – who have five wins from five – need only avoid a two-goal defeat in Catalonia to top Group G, although both clubs are already through.

Ronaldo is back, however, and aiming to score against Barca in the Champions League for the very first time.

The former Real Madrid forward has played more games against Barca in the competition without scoring (five) than he has any other team.

Meanwhile, Messi has three Champions League goals against teams including Ronaldo - among them a header as Manchester United were beaten in the 2009 final.

But this is the first time Ronaldo has faced Messi since moving to Juve, with their most recent Champions League encounter coming in the 2011 semi-finals – another occasion on which Messi dazzled with a first-leg double.

Further clashes are far from guaranteed, though, as Messi's Barca future remains uncertain and Ronaldo approaches his 36th birthday, bringing an end to one of sport's greatest rivalries into view.

Ronald Koeman could plunge Samuel Umtiti back into Barcelona action against Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo as the defender gets set for his first appearance of the season. 

The French World Cup winner has been blighted by knee problems, with Barcelona announcing his latest injury issue in early July, and he has not played since. 

However, Barca declared on Tuesday morning that Umtiti has been given the medical all-clear over his left knee, naming him in their squad for the clash with Juventus at Camp Nou that evening. 

That comes as a major boost to head coach Koeman, whose defensive options have been clipped by an injury suffered by Gerard Pique. 

Barcelona and Juventus are both assured of qualification for the last-16 stage ahead of their clash in the final round of Group G games, with Koeman's side three points clear of the Serie A champions thanks to their 2-0 win in Turin in October. 

Ronaldo missed that game after testing positive for COVID-19 but there was the tantalising prospect of the former Real Madrid star lining up against Lionel Messi, in a clash of the two preeminent players of their generation.

The wait is over.

After being denied a 36th instalment of Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo in the first clash between Barcelona and Juventus in this season's Champions League, the pair are set to go head-to-head at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Ronaldo was ruled out of the first encounter in Turin after a positive coronavirus test, while Messi was granted a rest by Ronald Koeman.

Both teams are already guaranteed to advance from Group G but the eyes of fans across the globe will be on the encounter as the two greatest players of the modern era do battle for top spot and a potentially easier draw in the last 16.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Messi has only been on the losing side once in his five previous Champions League meetings with Ronaldo.

He also a 3-0 advantage in terms of goals when they go up against one another. Messi scored a header in Barca's final success against Ronaldo's Manchester United in May 2009, before getting a double in the semi-finals two years later when the Blaugrana eliminated Real Madrid.

The captain of the Catalan giants had more touches (445) than Ronaldo (248) in those games, but the Portuguese has had 20 attempts at goal to his counterpart's 17.

In their second ever encounter – the return match in the 2007-08 Champions League semi-finals – Messi completed 16 dribbles, which is a record for one player in a single knockout game in the competition since Opta began collecting the data in 2004-05. United triumphed 1-0 in that fixture, though, with Ronaldo going on to lift the trophy for the first time.

In 35 clashes in all competitions for club and country, Messi holds the advantage with 16 wins and nine draws. Messi has scored 22 goals and supplied 12 assists in those games, while Ronaldo has scored 19 and set up one more.

TROPHIES TALK

In terms of team titles, Messi comes out on top with 36 – including an Olympic Games gold medal and Under-20 World Cup success with Argentina – compared to Ronaldo's 32.

However, Ronaldo has more Champions League wins (five to four) and two pieces of silverware at senior international level – something that has evaded Messi. While the Argentina captain has lost four major finals with his country, Ronaldo was part of Portugal's Euro 2016 and Nations League finals triumphs.

As individuals, Messi's seven Pichichi awards, six European Golden Shoes and six Ballons D'Or put him ahead of Ronaldo by 29 to 26 (scoring titles in all leagues and the Champions League taken into account).

GOALS GALORE

They are the only players to have found the back of the net in the Champions League over 100 times – Ronaldo reached the milestone first and has 132 goals, while Messi is on 118.

Ronaldo registered the 750th goal of his career on matchday five against Dynamo Kiev last week. The 35-year-old has 648 in 859 at club level (0.75 per game) and 102 in 170 Portugal outings (0.60 per game). While Messi is on average more prolific at club level with 641 in 745 games for Barcelona (0.86 goals per game), he is less effective for Argentina with 71 in 142 (0.50 goals per game).

The height of their rivalry came during Ronaldo's nine seasons at Barca's arch-rivals Madrid, during which he outscored his counterpart in three separate LaLiga campaigns. Messi topped the charts on five of the other six occasions, though, with Luis Suarez beating them both to the Pichichi in 2015-16.

In total, Messi has scored 448 goals in the top five European leagues, seven fewer than Ronaldo.

Yet while they are often pitted against one another, there are a few things Messi and Ronaldo share.

Sevilla are the favourite opponent of both (27 goals for Ronaldo, 37 for Messi) and they have also scored eight hat-tricks each in the Champions League and 36 trebles across Europe's top five domestic leagues.

But who will come out on top on when they finally meet again on Tuesday?

There is still lots to play for on matchday six as the Champions League group stage draws to its conclusion.

Barcelona and Juventus are already through but Tuesday should see Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo face off once again, the latter looking to end a dry spell in front of goal against the Catalans.

Kylian Mbappe is another star enduring a comparatively rotten run when it comes to goalscoring, but Istanbul Basaksehir could represent ideal opponents for the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

Elsewhere in a finely poised Group H, RB Leipzig host Manchester United in a critical game for both – and one where Marcus Rashford could earn a slice of history.

Barcelona v Juventus: Can Ronaldo end barren run against Catalans?

This match will be the sixth time Messi and Ronaldo have met in the Champions League and the first since May 2011, the former leading 3-0 in terms of goals scored in those contests.

Indeed, while he has hit 15 goals in his past 20 appearances against Barca in all competitions, Ronaldo has played more Champions League matches (five) against the Catalans without scoring than he has against any other opponent.

Barca, who need only avoid defeat to make sure they win the group, are unbeaten in four Champions League meetings with Juve and have not lost at home to the Bianconeri since April 2003.

In fact, Juve have gone four games without scoring against Ronald Koeman's side. Since Giorgio Chiellini's goal in a 3-0 victory back in April 2017, they have gone 395 minutes without finding the net against Barca.

 

Chelsea v Krasnodar: Why Lampard's side are so hard to beat

With first place in Group E already secure, Frank Lampard will have the luxury of rotating his line-up for the visit of Krasnodar to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have won all five previous games against Russian teams in the Champions League by an aggregate score of 13-1, and if they can continue that 100 per cent record, they will record their highest points tally (16) for a single group stage.

The Blues have proven seriously tricky opponents to breach this term. They are the only side yet to face an Opta-defined 'Direct Attack' in the 2020-21 Champions League – a sequence that starts in a team's own half and finishes with either a shot or a touch inside the box, with at least 50 per cent of the movement going towards the opposition goal. They also boast a goalkeeper in Edouard Mendy who has the best save percentage (93.8) of any keeper to play in at least three games in this season's competition.

Having scored four goals against Sevilla last time out, Olivier Giroud could well be given another chance to impress. The striker has five goals from six shots on target this term and has scored at least 10 more goals than any team-mate since the start of 2018-19 (16 goals in total). Only Didier Drogba (36) and Frank Lampard (25) have got more for the club in European competition outside of qualifying rounds.

Paris Saint-Germain v Istanbul Basaksehir: Mbappe desperate to end goal drought

Their 3-1 win at Manchester United last time out means Paris Saint-Germain know a win over Istanbul Basaksehir will see them finish top of a seriously competitive Group H.

They have won five of their previous six home games in the competition and kept a clean sheet in all those victories, so Thomas Tuchel will surely fancy his side's chances, especially since Basaksehir could become just the ninth side in history to concede at least four goals in three games running.

Mbappe will certainly hope to be on the scoresheet. The striker, who reached 100 goals in all competitions for PSG at the weekend, has failed to score in his past nine Champions League games, attempting 27 shots in that run with an Expected Goals total of just 3.9.

PSG will need to be wary of Edin Visca, though. The winger has carried the ball 1,264 metres in the group stage, second only to Bayern Munich's David Alaba (1,465).

RB Leipzig v Manchester United: Rashford could unlock pressing machine

Manchester United thrashed RB Leipzig 5-0 at Old Trafford but they have lost their previous two Champions League away games against German sides, going down 3-1 to Bayern Munich in April 2014 and 3-2 to Wolfsburg five years ago.

With Leipzig having won three home games in a row in Europe with just one goal conceded, they will feel confident of avenging that previous loss and inflicting upon Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a sixth defeat in 11 Champions League games, which would represent the worst return for a manager of an English club.

Leipzig's pressing intensity is renowned: they have allowed opponents an average of 8.4 passes before a defensive intervention, the lowest number of any team in 2020-21.

Still, they must beware the United counter-attack and, in particular, Marcus Rashford. The England star has scored three goals following a ball carry this season, the most of any player, and is attempting to become the first Englishman to hit six goals in a single Champions League group stage.

 

Other fixtures:

Lazio v Club Brugge

1  – If Lazio avoid defeat, they will remain unbeaten in a Champions League group stage for the first time since 1999-00, while this will also be the first time they have reached the knockout stages of the competition since that campaign.

3  – Club Brugge are looking to win consecutive Champions League games for the first time since November 2005. However, they have never won three games in a single Champions League group stage before.

 

Dynamo Kiev v Ferencvaros

16  – Dynamo Kiev (13) and Ferencvaros (12.4) have the largest Expected Goals Against figures amongst the sides in the Champions League this season, with Ferencvaros conceding more goals than any other team (16).

13.9  –  Ferencvaros' opponents have kept the ball for 13.9 seconds per sequence on average in the Champions League this season, the longest of any side's opponents this season.

 

Rennes v Sevilla

0  – Sevilla have never lost their final Champions League group-stage game (W3 D2). In the history of the competition, they have played more matchday-six group-stage games without defeat than any other side (including the second group phase).

90  –  Only Barcelona (92) have had more shots than Sevilla in the Champions League this season (90), though Sevilla have converted just 6.7 per cent of their shots in the competition this term (six goals).

 

Zenit v Borussia Dortmund

10  – No side has had fewer shots on target in the Champions League this season than Zenit (10), with the Russian side failing to register a single effort on target in two of their five games this season (including the reverse fixture versus Borussia Dortmund).

0 – Dortmund are seeking consecutive away wins for the first time since October 2016. They have won their previous two games on matchday six of the group stage and could make it three such victories in a row for the first time.

Andrea Pirlo dismissed the idea Barcelona are a club in crisis as he refused to rank Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo as a superior player to Lionel Messi before their Champions League showdown.

Juventus face a Barca side still reeling from last Saturday's shock 2-1 defeat to newly-promoted Cadiz in LaLiga which left them 12 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid after 10 games.

Ronald Koeman's side have, however, been flawless in the Champions League with five victories from five Group G matches, including a 2-0 win in Turin in October.

Juve's only win at Camp Nou in the Champions League came back in April 2003 (2-1), having failed to win on either of their last two trips there in the competition.

The Bianconeri have not scored in their last four games against Barca and Pirlo said they are not on the verge of meltdown, despite a domestic blip.

"I don't believe in the Barcelona crisis," Pirlo told a media conference. "The club has a new coach who is putting his ideas together. We know that he has a great team.

"They changed coaches but always go out on the pitch to play. They have to find the best solutions and put the players in the best conditions to perform at their best.

"But you play every three days and it's difficult for them, too. They are a great team and they will also recover in the league."

Messi and Ronaldo have previously met in five Champions League encounters, with Messi 3-0 up on the Portuguese superstar in terms of goals.

Tuesday's fixture will be their first duel in the competition since the May 2011 semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid and the first for Ronaldo as a Juve player.

On the eve of the match Barcelona head coach Koeman diplomatically refused to rank Messi as a superior player to Ronaldo, and his Juventus counterpart followed suit.

"Koeman is right to say that it is not fair to say who is better," Pirlo explained. "They have put on a show and have been doing it for 15 years. They have shared the Ballon d'Ors of the last 15 years.

"It is a shame to say if one is better than the other. They are phenomena that make millions of fans rejoice every time they take to the pitch, it is not fair to say who is better.

"We must thank them both because they are good for football.

"Messi had some problems this summer in wanting to stay in Barcelona. But in matches he has always proved his worth so more than on a technical level I think it's a mental problem.

"We don't want to get into problems, however, so let's leave Barcelona and Messi talking about these things."

Pirlo hinted veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is in line to feature against Barca, having returned to training following a thigh problem.

He said: "Gigi is better. He has recovered from his injury. He could be in the game tomorrow because he deserves such an important stage and could play."

Cesc Fabregas said it is difficult to imagine "humble" Lionel Messi ending his long association with Barcelona – and claimed Cristiano Ronaldo is a inspiration for players over 30.

Fabregas will be a keen observer of Barcelona's Champions League fixture with Juventus on Tuesday, which is set to revive the longstanding rivalry between his friend Messi and Ronaldo.

Monaco midfielder Fabregas was a team-mate of Messi's during his rise through Barca's La Masia youth academy and played alongside him in the first team between 2011 and 2014.

The pair won LaLiga, the UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana together during Fabregas' stint with the Blaugrana.

Argentina forward Messi, 33, has been at Barca for two decades but rumours overs his future persist with his contract due to expire next year.

When asked if he thinks Messi will remain at Camp Nou, Fabregas struggled to contemplate the prospect of him playing elsewhere.

"Barcelona is his home," Fabregas said in an interview with Tuttosport. "They have been his team since he was little [but] they are very personal choices, I don't interfere.

"What I myself often say to him: 'Leo, you don't realise how big you are''. Messi does not really have the perception of being a God of football, he is a very humble, sunny boy.

"He loves to live like normal people so much that, despite being a star, he would like to move without the security men. He also has a great heart, he is always ready to help sick children and the poorest people."

The 33-year-old acknowledged that Juventus forward Ronaldo, 35, is an inspiration for all players as they reach the twilight of their careers.

Messi and Ronaldo have previously met in five Champions League encounters, with Messi 3-0 up on Ronaldo in goals. 

The game on Tuesday would be their first duel in the competition since the May 2011 semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid and the first with the Portuguese in a Juventus shirt.

"I don't know Cristiano personally, but everyone tells me that he is super professional and has an incredible mentality," Fabregas explained.

"It will no longer be the CR7 that jumps over players with his dribbling, but he still scores a lot. I hope to reach the age of 36, so that I have a 20-year career.

"Now it is less complicated than in the past because we players have more information and we manage ourselves better: from rest to recovery, to nutrition.

"For example, I never drink alcohol and carbonated drinks. The only time is a beer on vacation!"

Fabregas also revealed he nearly moved to Serie A before he left Chelsea for Monaco in January 2019.

"I was close to three Italian teams before coming to Monaco," Fabregas added.

"I spoke with [Carlo] Ancelotti, when he was coaching Napoli, and also with [Ivan] Gazidis, when he moved to Milan. But I preferred to choose Monaco."

Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic is dissatisfied with his lack of playing time under Ronald Koeman and does not know what more he can do to earn a regular starting spot.

Pjanic has featured 11 times in all competitions since arriving at Camp Nou in June for an initial €60million, with Arthur moving in the opposite direction in a separate arrangement.

He has started only once in LaLiga, however, the Bosnia-Herzegovina international's other five appearances in the competition coming from the substitutes' bench.

And ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash against former side Juve, Pjanic conceded it is difficult to accept being used as a back-up player.

"Honestly, I don't understand the reason of this situation. I want to play more, I know I can give a lot," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"When the coach called me, I was always ready. I did well, I played good games. More than that, I do not know what I could do. I'm training, I'm ready.

"I am not satisfied and I cannot be satisfied. During my career I have never accepted the idea of not playing and I do not accept it now." 

Pjanic has been a regular in the Champions League and impressed in last week's win over Ferencvaros, his 134 attempted passes the most of any player in this year's competition.

But he was back among the substitutes for Saturday's LaLiga trip to Cadiz, playing only the last 13 minutes as Barca fell to a shock 2-1 loss.

"We will see what happens," he said. "I am ready, I train well and I wait, I cannot do anything else. It is a very delicate situation that does not suit me."

Pjanic now faces a reunion with Juventus, where he won four Serie A titles in four seasons before making the switch to Catalonia earlier this year.

He averaged 48.35 passes per 90 minutes in the opposition half in his final season in the division, second only to Napoli's Fabian Ruiz (50.64) among players to have featured at least 10 times.

The 30-year-old also represented Roma in Serie A for five seasons and said he misses life in Italy.

"I had a great time at both clubs. It's where I spent important seasons," he said. "My nine years in Italy was very nice. Honestly, I miss it. 

"Now I have this new challenge in the biggest club in the world. I wanted to try it, I am satisfied with the club and my team-mates.

"Juventus have remained in my heart - I follow them whenever I can. 

"The draw made me happy. Too bad I could not play in front of the fans in Turin, but there will be other opportunities. I wish Juventus the best, but tomorrow we want to win."

Juve lost the reverse meeting with Barca 2-0 in September and have won only one of their three previous away Champions League meetings at Camp Nou.

Philippe Coutinho accepts his performances for Barcelona have fallen short of expectations but insists he is mentally stronger than before.

Signed from Liverpool in 2018 in a deal potentially worth €160million (£142m), the Brazil international has not had the desired impact at Camp Nou.

Coutinho, who has scored 15 goals and provided nine assists in 60 LaLiga appearances, spent last season on loan at Bayern Munich and won the treble under Hansi Flick.

He returned to Barca for 2019-20 and has been directly involved in four goals in eight league outings, but the Catalans' inconsistent form has not helped him to thrive.

Coutinho started Saturday's shock 2-1 loss at Cadiz but managed only one shot and one key pass before being substituted for Ousmane Dembele at half-time.

With Dembele having suffered another hamstring injury, Coutinho is likely to start on Tuesday against Juventus as Barca look to secure top spot in their group.

While he accepts Barca are going through a transition period and that his own form has not been as hoped, Coutinho says he has become mentally and physically more robust.

"I know my form hasn't been what everyone expected," said the 28-year-old. "Barca have the attention of everyone and what I can say is that I've worked a lot more mentally to be well, and nowadays, I consider myself stronger in that sense.

"We're in a renewal process. We've changed coach, the players... all this forms part of the renewal process. You have to be patient and do everything to make it that things work as soon as possible.

"Whenever you lose an important game, the atmosphere is one of frustration. But I see everyone wanting to change this moment we're going through. Mentally, I'm stronger than before and the team looks eager to change this.

"I started to work in a different way. It was necessary to have more strength. And mentally, it's the same. There are things that are making me stronger and, physically and mentally, I'm doing a better job."

Barca face Juventus knowing they will finish top of the group if they avoid losing by three goals or more, or by a two-goal margin other than 2-0.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.