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Messi and Fabregas revive teenage partnership as Barcelona head to Milan

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By Mike Barnes

Tuesday 22 November 2011

A teenage partnership was renewed on Saturday when Cesc Fabregas set up Lionel Messi to score Barcelona’s second goal against Real Zaragoza. The pair have a chance to shine together on the European stage tomorrow night when Barca face Milan at the San Siro.

The two sides have met 12 times in European competition, with four wins each and four draws. With both clubs assured of progression to the Champions League knock-out stage, a win for the Blaugrana will see them through as group winners.

Messi’s goal against Zaragoza was his 30th in all competitions this season and his 15th in La Liga. The prolific Argentine has also scored five times in the Champions League, including a hat-trick against Viktoria Plzen. He also has six assists to his name, including a vital through ball for Fabregas to save a point for Barca against Valencia back in September.

Fabregas, meanwhile, has scored five times in nine Primera Liga appearances, with five assists, including three for Messi. The diminutive striker says he and Fabregas are on the same wavelength, and have been since their formative years together as Barcelona trainees: “We understand each other very well. Time has passed but we keep playing like when we were cadets.”

The two 24-year-olds, of whom Fabregas is the elder by seven weeks, have reformed a partnership that began when they played together as teenagers, but Messi believes the eight years Fabregas spent at Arsenal have been just as important in helping him adapt so quickly after returning to Camp Nou: “Not only did we play together as kids, but Arsenal played the same way as us when he was there.”

Meanwhile, former Milan striker Marco van Basten has revealed that he would like to have played for Barcelona. The 47-year-old Dutchman, whose career was cut short by injury, shared his thoughts on tomorrow’s game with Mundo Deportivo: “Milan-Barca is always special. This is a very prestigious match for both clubs, even though it isn’t a decisive game like a Champions League quarter-final, semi-final or final would be.”

Asked how the Milan team he played in under Arrigo Sacchi would have compared with Guardiola’s Barcelona, van Basten said: “This Barca squad has much more quality than we did. We had good individuals, but we were not a team like Guardiola’s, and we played more physical football. The current Barcelona team is all technique and intelligence and they know how to play with and without the ball.”

Reminded about Michel Platini’s recent confession that he would have loved to have played alongside Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, van Basten admitted he harboured similar thoughts: “I would love to have played at this club. I am envious of how well Guardiola's men can play. They are like a group of kids who play football in the street without rules. That is the best football, the most authentic, unfettered by tactics or schemes. Guardiola’s philosophy is helping to change the mindset of many tacticians and that is priceless.”

To make sure you don't miss any of A Different League's Spanish coverage this season, follow the La Liga dedicated Twitter feed: @differentliga

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