Manchester United star Ander Herrera has warned Arsenal that if Lionel Messi hits top form in the Champions League first leg clash on 23 February, the Gunners will have no chance of besting Barcelona. The Spain international also highlighted the injury absence of compatriot Santi Cazorla as cause for Arsenal's concern, as he feels the match will be won or lost in midfield.
Herrera faced Barcelona a number of times in his career during his time in La Liga at Athletic Bilbao. The United star has also featured for his current employers against Arsenal on a number of occasions, and feels the team who control the midfield will win the game. However, he particularly highlighted the threat of Messi.
"If Messi has his day, there's little you can do. Of course, your job as the opposition is to ensure that he doesn't have his day," he said to Marca. "I have played against Leo several times and in Sam Mames we beat him once and got two draws. So he is beatable but if he is 100% on form and has his day, you can either pray or forget about it.
"For me there is only one [Andres] Iniesta. I love to play against him, just to tell to my grandchildren [about him] in the future, but I suffer against him as a rival. Arsenal have [Francis] Coquelin, Mesut Özil ... Ozil is not as consistent but makes a difference when he has his day. "
The United star believes the game will be closer than in previous seasons, as Arsenal are an improved proposition to the one dumped out of the tournament by Barca on previous occasions.
"I think it's going to be harder for Barcelona this year. I think that Arsenal, aside from having some outstanding players, are brimming with self-confidence this season, both in the Premier League and the Champions League. They have won two back-to-back FA Cups and are better. That said, I think Barcelona are better. Not much better, but still better. It's going to be a nice tie," Herrera said.
"I think it's going to be very evenly matched. Barcelona switch between having the ball and playing without it. Arsenal like to dominate proceedings but are quick to break on the counter-attack with Alexis [Sanchez], [Theo] Walcott and [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain. That's why it's going to be a great game. It is a shame that Cazorlita [Santi Cazorla] will not play because he always makes the difference."