The Ballon d’Or holder is back in the squad as Argentina prepare to face their rivals in World Cup qualifying, and it is the Selecao who should be worried, the forward says.
Argentina forward Lucas Pratto claims Brazil fear midfield maestro Lionel Messi as the two South American giants prepare to lock horns.
Thursday will see CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying leaders Brazil host rivals Argentina in Belo Horizonte.
The stakes are high for Argentina, who are five points adrift of Brazil in sixth after 10 matches, and Pratto heaped pressure on the hosts with five-time Ballon d’Or Messi back in the squad having missed the past three qualifiers due to a knee injury.
“They know that Leo is very tough. They are a little scared,” Pratto – based in Brazil with Atletico Mineiro – told Argentine newspaper Ole.
“Or maybe more than a little.”
Messi’s return is a boost for Argentina as they have struggled in the Barcelona star’s absence. While the 29-year-old was injured, Argentina lost to Paraguay and drew with Peru and Venezuela. However, Messi’s former club-mate, Dani Alves, says he has no such concerns of facing an Albiceleste side led by their star man, insisting the Selecao have no reason to worry.
“Fear doesn’t exist in football. There’s a mutual respect,” he told a news conference.
“It’s the same that there’s an overall respect for Messi and for the Argentina national team.
“It’s just like I believe that there’s respect for our players and for our national team as well.
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“So we are going to look to have a good game and continue our growth within the competition no matter who is on the other team.”
Messi, 29, has been in fine form this season, having scored 16 goals in 14 games for Barcelona in all competitions.
The attacker had initially retired from international duty after Argentina’s defeat in the Copa America final in summer, but returned in their opening World Cup qualifier against Uruguay, scoring in a 1-0 win.
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