City have looked shaky at the back of late, but their young defender insists his side are ready for the challenge of Barca while revealing his admiration for their style of play.
John Stones insists he is not afraid of facing Lionel Messi and Barcelona ahead of Manchester City’s visit in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side have wobbled defensively ahead of the clash with the Catalan’s former club, with City having failed to keep a clean sheet so far this season.
Their bid to come away with a result at Camp Nou has been done no favours given the return of Messi from injury, the Argentine announcing his return with a goal at the weekend.
However, Stones is refusing to bow to the pressure and is simply looking forward to the experience of playing against one of the world’s best.
“It doesn’t scare me [facing Messi], no,” Stones told reporters. “I think you have to play against the best to see how you can deal with it and it always brings the best out in you as well.
“I see it as an exciting challenge and one I’m looking forward to.
“For me, Messi’s the best player in the world, easily. He’s one of a kind. I think we, as footballers, appreciate it even more when you come up against him and see what he can really do.
“I’ll be looking forward to that challenge. But it’s not just him, it’s everyone in that team. I think Suarez has taken his game to another level since he was at Liverpool.
“You can’t let your game slip or your focus. It’s something I’m working on, but that comes with age and games as well, experience. It takes time to learn the game and I’m still learning. There’s plenty more to come.”
The England defender also revealed he had grown up watching Messi play and win with Barcelona, confirming his admiration for the way they played.
“It will be massive,” Stones added. “Watching Barcelona as a kid, they’re a massive team, with top players, a great stadium, and it will be big occasion for me, my family and the club.
“It was Messi himself and the style they play that I liked. Obviously, the gaffer [Guardiola] used to work there and I was a big fan when he was there and the players he had.
“Now the new players have come in and they’re an exciting team, it will be great to come face-to-face with them.”