Lenglet & Barcelona looking to ‘Leader Messi’ for Clasico inspiration

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The Blaugrana are preparing for a Copa del Rey and La Liga double-header with Real Madrid which will go a long way towards shaping their season. Lionel Messi is considered to have “mastered” football “to perfection” by Barcelona team-mate Clement Lenglet, with the Argentine expected to deliver more inspiration in back-to-back Clasico clashes with Real Madrid. The Blaugrana’s next two outings are set to take them to the Spanish capital for crucial contests with their arch-rivals. The first of those will be taken in on Wednesday, with a Copa del Rey semi-final locked at 1-1 from the first leg at Camp Nou.Barca will then be back at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday for a fixture in La Liga which could go a long way towards determining the destination of the title.

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Messi will be expected to figure prominently in both games, with Lenglet looking to follow the lead of a mercurial talent who possesses the ability to deliver more match-defining moments. The French defender told AFP of a five-time Ballon d’Or winner: “I remember when I first arrived, he said hello, gave me a little hug – I felt immediately at ease. “He is a technical leader. On the field, he makes the difference so often, in almost every game. He’s a leader through his experience. He watches football, knows all types of football and has mastered it to perfection. There’s only one Messi and, when he gives advice, you listen.”

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With Messi set to provide the Clasico spark against Madrid, Lenglet added on two potentially defining matches in Barca’s season: “This month is pivotal. There is the Champions League and these two games against Real, when we can qualify for a cup final and then gain or lose points on them in the league. We have to manage them properly. It could be pivotal for the rest of the season.” Lenglet may have an important role to play against Madrid, with the 23-year-old having enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence to become Gerard Pique’s established centre-half partner during the injury-enforced absence of World Cup-winning countryman Samuel Umtiti. “I could never have imagined I’d come so far so quickly. I went to Seville, and for me that was a big jump,” said Lenglet.

 “No disrespect to Nancy, but they were worlds apart. To then be at Barcelona a year and a half later, I could never have imagined it. We now live with the best players in the world and that makes you learn quickly. I’m more thoughtful now about when to release the ball, when to clear and when to keep it, when to be more patient. It’s about managing the game.”

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