Manchester City's John Stones
John Stones has told Sport360 that the prospect of facing Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates 'doesn't scare me'.
Manchester City travel to the Nou Camp to face Barcelona in their latest Champions League clash. But this will be unlike any other group stage match - not only is it a meeting of two footballing heavyweights, but it sees Barcelona's successful ex-coach Pep Guardiola return to Spain with his new side.
And Stones, City's confident central defender, is calm and composed at the thought of playing at the Nou Camp, and facing the world's best player, for the first time in his career. Messi returns to the Barcelona team after picking up a groin injury last month, but Stones is not fazed at the prospect of having to keep him quiet.
Stones said to Sport 360: “It doesn’t scare me, no. I think you have to play against the best to see how you can deal with it and it always brings the best out in you as well. I see it as an exciting challenge and one I’m looking forward to – if I’m picked to play of course.
“For me, Messi’s the best player in the world, easily. He’s one of a kind. I think we, as footballers, appreciate it even more when you come up against him and see what he can really do."
But for Stones and Manchester City alike, it is not just the enigmatic Messi that they will have to contend with. Barcelona's team contains stars all across the pitch.
Luis Suarez in particular poses just as much of a goalscoring threat as the Argentine, and his statistics over the last year or so have been unrivaled in world football. Last season Suarez scored 53 goals in 49 games, including 21 assists and 7 hat-tricks.
Stones acknowledged this fact: “I’ll be looking forward to that challenge. But it’s not just him, it’s everyone in that team. I think Luis Suarez has taken his game to another level since he was at Liverpool.
“You can’t let your game slip or your focus. It’s something I’m working on, but that comes with age and games as well, experience. It takes time to learn the game and I’m still learning. There’s plenty more to come."