Sevilla's Kjaer ready for Messi and Barcelona test
Simon Kjaer is relishing the challenge to try to stop in-form star Lionel Messi but the Sevilla defender believes his team can get a result at LaLiga-leading Barcelona on Saturday.
Denmark captain Kjaer and Sevilla make their way to Camp Nou, fifth in the table and nine points adrift of unbeaten Barca after 10 matches.
Barca have been spearheaded by five-time Ballon d'Or winner and the club's all-time leading scorer Messi, who tops the LaLiga goalscoring charts with 12.
Kjaer - Sevilla's most expensive defender after arriving from Turkish giants Fenerbahce for EUR12.5million in the off-season - has come up against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robert Lewandowski and Edinson Cavani but never Messi, and the 28-year-old centre-back is looking forward to his first appearance at Camp Nou.
Speaking exclusively to Omnisport, Kjaer - who has played 10 matches in all competitions this season - said: "A match like this is the reason why I play football. And the reason why I chose to go to Sevilla this summer to play for a top team in the best league in the world.
"Going up against the best players in the world - like Barca's Messi - is a wonderful challenge. It is not up to any individual player to stop Messi - that is a team mission.
"I always enjoy the direct duels with the best players in the world, but my experience from hundreds of games in the top European leagues and for Denmark tells me, that it is not an individual mission to stop the very best players - it is the whole team defending and working hard."
Kjaer, who is feeling at home with his family in Seville, added: "We believe in ourselves as a team and we go to Barcelona to get a good result.
"I have never played at Camp Nou before, and I am looking forward to this challenge. It does not get much bigger in football, but we are ready for it as a team.
"On TV. I have never seen any team having an easy game at Camp Nou, and for sure it won't be an easy walk in the park for us against a great team like Barca, but we will enter the pitch to give it a go and invest a lot in hopefully getting a positive return."
Sevilla head to the Catalan region with confidence, having boosted their hopes of reaching the Champions League last 16 during the week.
After suffering a shock 5-1 humbling to Spartak Moscow last month, Sevilla bounced back by defeating the Russians 2-1 on Wednesday.
Sevilla are now second in Group E, just a point adrift of leaders Liverpool and two clear points of Spartak with two matchdays remaining.
"It was such an important win against Spartak," Kjaer said. "We have regained the control of our destiny. Now it's only up to us to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League, and that is basically the situation we wanted from the beginning.
"We got a crazy result in Russia in the first game. I know that it sounds a bit strange after losing, but we were actually in control of the game for a long time, and I even got on the scoresheet. We asked ourselves: 'what happened?' Now we turned it around and put that frustrating defeat right by winning. We were really happy in the changing room afterwards. It was a great team performance.
"Now we filled up the tank of self-confidence after our last wins, and we are clicking as a team. We are still in many ways a new Sevilla team with a lot of new players and a new coach [Eduardo Berizzo], but we have a lot of quality and have been working hard, and we're improving all the time."