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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Don't ask for Lionel Messi's shirt at half time, PSV manager tells players

Manager wants Dutch league leaders to stay professional as they begin Uefa Champions League season facing player he called best in world

PSV Eindhoven manager Mark van Bommel, centre, wants to rein in his players ahead of their match in Barcelona. Reuters
PSV Eindhoven manager Mark van Bommel, centre, wants to rein in his players ahead of their match in Barcelona. Reuters

PSV Eindhoven manager Mark van Bommel says his players can fight it out for Barcelona star Lionel Messi's shirt if they win at Camp Nou on Tuesday - but they had better not ask him for it at half time.

Van Bommel wants the Dutch league leaders to stay professional as they begin the Uefa Champions League season facing the player he called the best in the world.

"If tomorrow we get a good result, I don't care if they fight for Messi's shirt," Van Bommel said on Monday. "That is part of being a professional, to always be concentrating. I know they will ask him for the shirt, but they shouldn't do it at half time."

Despite Messi's exalted status, Barcelona have won only one of the last five Champions Leagues.

"It's hard to explain, I don't understand it," said midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who is looking forward to making his debut in the competition for the Catalan club after being cup-tied last season.

"It's hard to watch the game from outside. I always want to play to help, but I couldn't last season."

Meanwhile, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde is extremely wary of PSV.

"[They] are quite capable of giving us and the other teams in this group a very tough game," Valverde was quoted as saying on the Primera Liga side's website. "They play an attacking game, so we’re going to have to defend well."

The Spaniard even singled out two young PSV wingers - Hirving Lozano, 23, and Steven Bergwijn, 20 - as the dangermen in the Dutch ranks.

Lozano may one day line up with the Argentine at Barcelona, having revealed the Catalan side were interested in signing him in the close season after he impressed for Mexico at the World Cup.

"My agents told me that Barca asked about me and it would be a dream to play here in the future," he said, "but now the important thing is focusing on PSV and enjoying it as much as possible."

“PSV are the Dutch champions and one of the strongest teams in Europe,” he added. “They like to control the play and I can’t see them changing that for the sake of a single game."

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Valverde also said his side were determined to win European club football's elite competition, following recent disappointments, particularly with arch-rivals Real Madrid having taken home the trophy three consecutive seasons.

“The Champions League is always a special motivation for the players and that’s ideal for the team,” he said.

One of the players Valverde will be looking to is Philippe Coutinho, given that the Brazilian was unable to play in the competition last season after moving from Liverpool in the January transfer window.

"It will be a special, important night for me," Coutinho said. "I’m looking forward to this because I couldn’t play in this competition for Barca last season.”

“We are Barca and we want to win every competition we play in," the midfielder added. "The Champions League is a huge competition and we want to do big things.

"It’s a very demanding competition because of the quality of the teams involved, but both us players and the fans are really hungry to win it.”