'This Messi is not Barca's Messi' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 29, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:57 PM, June 28, 2018

'This Messi is not Barca's Messi'

France's chance against Argentina in the World Cup last 16 might be that Lionel Messi does not benefit from the same support with the national team than at Barcelona, his club team mate Samuel Umtiti said on Thursday.

The France centre back has been Messi's team mate for two years and he will cross the forward's pass when Les Bleus take on Argentina in a mouth-watering second round tie on Saturday.

Umtiti, who is expected to start at the Kazan Arena after being rested in France's last group game against Denmark, said: "I see him everyday. It is very hard to stop him. He's got outstanding qualities.

"We will try to stop him but he's not the only one in this Argentina team, they have other strikers."

But while Messi can rely on a reliable Luis Suarez at Barca, he is a bit more on his own with Argentina, with Gonzalo Higuain having notably not scored in his last eight outings with the national team.

He also has to deal with the weight of a whole nation expecting him to win the World Cup in what is likely to be his last shot at the biggest trophy in football.

"He is different with Argentina than with Barcelona," said Umtiti.

"He does not have the same players with him and their way of playing is different but he has saved them on several occasions.

"The Argentineans are tough on him, but he cannot do everything on his own."

Umtiti, who is paired with Real Madrid's Raphael Varane in defence, should have a key role against Messi if he is well fed by his team, which was not always the case in the group phase, which Argentina escaped with a last-gap 2-1 win against Nigeria.

"(Umtiti) does not feel the pressure. He's ice-cool, he's zen," said France midfielder Thomas Lemar.

Lo Celso cautiously optimistic

Argentina midfielder Giovani Lo Celso said there are "flaws" to exploit against France.

Lo Celso is more familiar than most with Argentina's upcoming opponents as three of his Paris Saint-Germain team-mates -- Kylian Mbappe, Presnel Kimpembe and Alphonse Areola -- are in the France squad.

"We're facing a great opponent, a great team that was unbeaten in the group phase. But we know we're a big team too and we have our weapons. I think it's going to be a great game," Lo Celso said on Thursday.

"The France team, with space and the people they have, can put you in danger. In general it's a very good team and very united. But while they have many strengths they also have flaws and we have to take advantage of them."

Defender Federico Fazio said Tuesday's victory over Nigeria had boosted the spirit within the camp after a 3-0 loss to Croatia had left Argentina on the verge of elimination.

"It was a different attitude from the whole team, from all the players in the third game," said Fazio. I think from the first minute, also knowing what the consequences of not winning were, the team was much more involved, courageous and together."

France have never beaten Argentina in a competitive match, the last of which came at the 1978 World Cup, but Les Bleus are one of the favourites for the title.

"France are a big opponent, with great players. We have respect for them but we feel very good," said Fazio. "I think after the win against Nigeria we feel much stronger and more confident.

“We know we have a great team, with great players and the confidence of a big team. We have to make the most of it.”

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