Sports desk: Cesc Fabregas will put his close friendship with Lionel Messi to one side as he looks to guide Chelsea past Barcelona in their Champions League clash at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.
The Spaniard came through Barcelona’s La Masia academy alongside Messi and the pair have maintained a close relationship despite the former first moving to Arsenal as a 15-year-old before leaving again for Chelsea in 2014.
As the Blues prepare for the Champions League battle with Barcelona in the second leg of their last 16 tie, which is level at 1-1, Fabregas has recognised that it may fall directly on his to stop Messi, and is fully prepared for the task, The Dailymail reports.
Fabregas told Marca: ‘If I am lucky enough to play, we are positioned in nearby areas of the pitch. 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 has started all seven of Chelsea’s Champions League fixtures this season and is likely to continue that streak as Antonio Conte’s men look to make up for a drab Premier League campaign by making the quarter-finals.
Messi’s goal in the first leg at Stamford Bridge means Chelsea go into Wednesday’s game needing at least a goal to qualify, but stopping their irresistible attack will be a crucial element.
The Argentine will also go into the game with fresh legs, but perhaps tired eyes, after he missed Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Malaga due to the birth of his third son, Ciro, who was born on Saturday.