• Champions League

Zabaleta excited for 'fantastic' Barcelona tie

ESPN staff
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Champions League Round of 16 set


Pablo Zabaleta is predicting a "fantastic" tie when Manchester City face Barcelona in the Champions League and is looking forward to taking on his close friend Lionel Messi.

The City right-back is one of three Argentina internationals in Manuel Pellegrini's squad and, along with Sergio Aguero and Martin Demichelis, he is preparing to face compatriot Messi at the Etihad on February 18 and in the Camp Nou on March 12.

And Zabaleta, who used to play for Barcelona's local rivals Espanyol, is relishing a meeting with four-time World Player of the Year Messi and has happy memories of his last trip to the Camp Nou, when City visited in a pre-season clash.

He told City's official website: "Now we have to face Barcelona in the Champions League and we will be ready. I think it will be a fantastic game, but we'll wait and see.

"I played against Lionel for Espanyol against Barcelona and I recall in my second season at City when we played in the Nou Camp in the Joan Gamper Trophy against Barcelona and we won 1-0 with a goal from Martin Petrov so I think we're about level at the moment!"

Zabaleta said last month that Messi has often asked him about City since the defender agreed to move to England in 2008 and retains a keen interest in developments at the Etihad Stadium.

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