Messi strikes fear into Real

09:02, April 08, 2010      

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Barcelona's Lionel Messi of Argentina reacts after scoring a goal against Arsenal during their Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Messi scored four times as Barcelona beat Arsenal 4-1 to reach the Champions League semifinals for the third straight year. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Lionel Messi's 4-1 destruction of Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday has filled the Madrid-based sports press with trepidation ahead of Saturday's La Liga "clasico" between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

"How do we stop this guy?" was the headline in Marca after the Argentina forward hit four past Arsenal to send holders Barcelona through to the semifinals 6-3 on aggregate.

"Messi is the one who scares us," said As.

The 22-year-old World Player of the Year tops the La Liga scoring chart with 26, two ahead of Real striker and compatriot Gonzalo Higuain, and keeping him quiet is an achievement that has eluded some of the best defenses around this season.

"You have to take your hat off to him because he is a player who makes the difference," Real defender Sergio Ramos said on Real's Website.

"Our weapons will be to stay focused and show the maximum possible respect to Barcelona."

Real tops the standings on goal difference with eight matches remaining but after Saturday's clash the head-to-head record will separate the arch-rivals if they are still level on points.

Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner summed up Messi's performance as "phenomenal" while Theo Walcott said sometimes you just want to sit back and watch Messi at work.

"A player like this only comes along every 25-30 years," teammate Xavi Hernandez said.

Coach Pep Guardiola believes the 22-year-old is certainly on his way to becoming the Catalan club's greatest player. "These kinds of things you can't explain. There are no words," Guardiola said. "This kind of performance you have to see it."

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