Messi hails Arsenal but “We knew they wouldn’t be able to keep up”

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The beauty of carrying three strikers who would be the unbridled No. 1 attack option for, say, almost every club in the world is that two can have off-days and still look quite dangerous.

While Neymar and Luis Suarez didn’t have days to remember at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday for Barcelona’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg against Arsenal, Lionel Messi starred yet again.

[ MORE: Match recap | Wenger says Arsenal “technically very average” ]

Messi converted the end of a Suarez and Messi rush by deftly moving around Petr Cech, than won and converted a penalty kick to salt away a pair of road goals in Barcelona’s 2-0 win on Tuesday.

And he expected nothing less.

From FCBarcelona.com:

“Arsenal did very well in the first half, with some help, but we knew they wouldn’t be able to keep that pace up all the way. In the second half, we had more space and that’s how we got the first goal.

“At the Camp Nou, we‘ll go out to win, as we do at every ground.”

There’s an obvious confidence to the Barcelona attack, but how about the work done by Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic on Tuesday? Messi knows his “trident” will get its scoring chances, but he’s also confident in what’s behind him.

Barcelona is still the favorite to repeat as UCL champ, an honor not earned since AC Milan in 1990.