Xabi Alonso admits stopping Lionel Messi will be a challenge for Bayern Munich

Xabi Alonso

The former Real Madrid midfielder highlighted the motivation for his team, isn't just about beating Barcelona, but to reach the Champions League final.

Midfield general Xabi Alonso has a wealth of experience, when it comes to battles against Barcelona, especially during his time with their arch-rivals, Real Madrid.

During his Champions League preview press conference, via Europa Press, questioned whether that former rivalry presents an added incentive to beat the Catalan giants on Wednesday night, Alonso simply pointed out: "The motivation is to reach the final. There's no better motivation than that."

He also explained: "We know what it has cost us to reach this stage, just as it has for them. You can't afford any slip-ups and if you have them, you have to remedy things the way we did against FC Porto."

Of his time campaigning against Barcelona with Real Madrid, or his previous battles won and lost, as far as the 33-year-old is concerned, those days are in the past. All he's focused on now, is the present with Bayern Munich.

He acknowledged: "I've played against Barça plenty of times, but now it's going to be something different with Bayern. It will be a great challenge for us, and we're hopeful we're prepared for it."

Although his current manager was also a former rival, Alonso suggested his relationship with Guardiola is one of respect, highlighting: "We had the sort of relationship you always have with other coaches you play against; one of respect. Now it's very different, we're working hand in hand, we know one another much better and we're working towards the same objectives."

Keen to turn attention away from the return of Pep Guardiola to the Camp Nou, or his former rivalry, Alonso underlined: "We're playing in the semi-finals of the Champions league, the prelude to a final, with all that means to Bayern, and that's what we're focused on." 

Given it will be an emotional return for Pep Guardiola, to the Camp Nou, Alonso accepted: "Obviously Guardiola will have his feelings, as an ex-player, ex-manager and as a fan of Barça."

However, the veteran midfielder also observed: "For the players it's somewhat different. We have to be one-hundred percent and know just how important this game is, in itself."

Having worked with some of the best managers in the game, Alonso was asked for his thoughts about the differences between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

The former Real Madrid player responded: "They're both different personalities. I've had the good fortune to have now worked with both of them. In the past decade, they've both been a strong reference, which for me has been very rewarding."

Continuing, Alonso explained: "Each of them has their own style, their own way of looking at football, how they communicate, or control things in the dressing room. So for me, it's a privilege having worked with both and at first hand, rather than observing from the outside."

Inevitably, when questioned about how Bayern Munich hope to put the brakes on Lionel Messi, given his exceptional ability and form, Alonso admitted: "If he's like we expect him to be, there's no defence that can stop him. There's no defensive system or manager that can stop him.

As for who is the best, between his former colleague Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Alonso offered the view: "They're both huge players - just look at all their goals. Whilst I was at Madrid though, for me, Cristiano was the best."

Finally and regarding injury problems which have struck the Bayern Munich team, Alonso declared confidently: "They're no excuse, even though we'd have liked the absent players to have been with us. It's still no excuse, because those of us who do play, we're going to face this tie with the same enthusiasm to compete and then, we'll see what happens."

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