x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Pedro's chance for six of the best

The young winner has scored in all five of Barcelona's competitive campaigns this season and, with Lionel Messi nursing an ankle injury, could be given the chance to make it an exceptional six.

Barca players, including  Zlatan Ibrahimovic, right, train at Abu Dhabi's Officer's Club yesterday.
Barca players, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, right, train at Abu Dhabi's Officer's Club yesterday.

ABU DHABI // While European Champions Barcelona chase an historical sixth title in the Club World Cup this week, their 22-year-old winger Pedro is on the verge of writing his own chapter in the record books of the Nou Camp club. The Spaniard has scored in all five of the Catalans' competitive campaigns this season and, with Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi facing a race to recover from the ankle injury sustained against Dynamo Kiev last week, could be given the chance to make it an exceptional six when Barca line up against Mexico's Atlante at Zayed Sports City tomorrow night.

Pedro, having opened his account against Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup in August, followed it up with the extra-time winner in his side's Uefa Super Cup final against Shakhtar Donetsk. He then netted his first Primera Liga goal against Almeria in October before bagging a brace in Barca's 2-0 Cop del Rey victory over Cultural Leonesa three weeks later. The Tenerife-born midfielder, a product of Barcelona's famed youth academy, scored his last goal for Pep Guardiola's side against Inter Milan in the Champions League on November 24. But he is gunning to get on the scoresheet again in Abu Dhabi - if given the chance.

"I am not obsessed with the goal and will play for the team; if I score, great," he said after a brief training session in the UAE capital yesterday. "For the team, it is better if Messi can play. "But if he is not able, I am ready if the coach wants me. It is not so important that I play or score; the most important thing is that the team wins." Such sentiments were echoed by Pedro's Ukrainian teammate Dmytro Chygrynskiy, who was adamant that, even if Argentine Messi is missing, his side must not leave the Emirates empty-handed.

"Of course, [Messi] is a very important part of the team, but we are Barcelona and we need to be able to play our best football without him if we are to succeed," said the 23-year-old defender, a ?25 million (Dh135m) summer signing from Ukraine's Uefa Cup holders Shakhtar Donetsk. "Everybody knows how good he is, but we have played without him this season already." The defender refused to accept his side go into tomorrow's match as favourites insisting: "It is more important to speak after the final.

"Atlante won their last match 3-0 and they have good players like [Santiago] Solari and Rafa Marquez. "They are a good team, but we shouldn't focus on certain players. So long as we prepare and play our best; that is what is most important," said Chygrynskiy. Midfielder Andres Iniesta meanwhile admitted the Catalans' opponents tomorrow night are an unknown quantity, but vowed the three-time European Cup winners will not be underestimating the Concacaf champions.

"This is the most important title for all of us as we've never won it," he said. "Most of the other sides are unknown to us, but we must remember they are still the champions of their respective regions. We can't relax because any team could beat us. "This year we have won every competition we have been in and this is the only one left for us to win. That is enough to give us 100 per cent motivation."

Chygrynskiy agrees. "In the history of Barcelona, we have never won the Club World Cup before," he said. "That makes it very important to us." gmeenaghan@thenational.ae