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'Messi's performances could be better,' says Koeman – but Champions League opener offers ideal chance for confidence boost

'Messi's performances could be better,' says Koeman – but Champions League opener offers ideal chance for confidence boost
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has admitted that Lionel Messi is struggling for form but the Champions League opener against Hungarian underdogs Ferencvaros could provide a timely boost for the Catalans and their star number 10.

After the protracted summer transfer saga which saw Messi pull back from the precipice of quitting the Nou Camp, the Argentine has failed to hit the ground running this season. 

Messi has one goal and two assists in four La Liga games thus far, and was way off his best in Barcelona's two most recent games against Getafe and Sevilla. 

“Maybe, right now, Messi’s performances could be better,” Koeman told reporters as Barcelona prepare to host Ferencvaros for their Champions League Group G opener on Tuesday.

“But he's happy, he's working hard and he wants to be the captain of this team.

“I do not have a single complaint. He has also had some bad luck. He hit the post and in another game that will be a goal.

“I don’t have any doubts about his performances and we are going to see him back to his best in the games to come, I am sure.”

Unsurprisingly, Koeman's comments have split opinion among fans.

Some put Messi's slow start to the season down to the 33-year-old 'being held hostage' in the last year of his contract with Barca; others blamed the personnel around him for not delivering; some said a decline is inevitable considering the Argentine's age; many others tipped the six-time Ballon d'Or to come good over the course of the season. 

Whatever the case, Messi will get an immediate chance to bolster his stats – and provide a timely confidence boost – when Barcelona host Ferencvaros on Tuesday night. 

The Hungarian champions are back in the Champions League group stages for the first time in 25 years, having qualified by knocking out Djurgardens, Celtic, Dinamo Zagreb and Molde.

Such a lengthy absence will add fire to a proud club now managed by former Tottenham Hotspur and Ukraine forward Sergei Rebrov when they step out at the Nou Camp, but given their status Ferencvaros will still head into the game as heavy underdogs. 

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For Messi and Barcelona, a home game against lesser-fancied opposition arguably offers just what they need as they return to the competition which last season handed them one of most humiliating defeats in their history.  

It also offers the chance to build some momentum ahead of what – on paper at least – are far tougher assignments in the coming weeks. 

A Clasico against Real Madrid at the Nou Camp beckons on Saturday, followed by a Champions League trip to Turin to face Juventus. 

Those are the kind of tougher tests that it's hard to imagine Barcelona passing without Messi firing on all cylinders. 

In that context, and with Koeman's words ringing in the ears of the Barcelona faithful, Tuesday night at the Nou Camp offers the chance for Messi to get back on the scoresheet, and more importantly back on the path to the kind of form Barcelona so desperately need from him.  

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