Messi: Barcelona must 'start from scratch' after two painful Champions League exits

Having crashed out of the Champions League in gutting fashion in their previous two campaigns, Lionel Messi wants Barcelona to look forward.

Lionel Messi has urged Barcelona it to forget about the manner of its last two Champions League exits.   -  Getty Images

Lionel Messi acknowledged Barcelona is still smarting from the manner of its past two Champions League exits but must "start from scratch" this season.

Barca was eliminated on away goals in April 2018 after squandering a 4-1 aggregate lead over AS Roma, losing 3-0 in the second leg of its quarterfinal tie at the Stadio Olimpico.

Liverpool then overturned a three-goal deficit to the Blaugrana at the semifinal stage last season courtesy of a dramatic 4-0 victory at Anfield, with Messi admitting the pain of those galling eliminations remains strong.

Having emerged top of the pile from a tricky Group F that included Borussia Dortmund, Inter and Slavia Prague this term, Messi is urging it to forget about what happened in the past when the knockout stages commence in February.

"To be honest, it's always there," the six-time Ballon d'Or winner said of the painful Champions League eliminations at an Adidas event on Wednesday.

"But we have to start from scratch. It's a new year, a new competition. Obviously we have to learn from mistakes, but to think of the present and the future. We must forget what happened last year and the year before, it would be a mistake to think of that."

'Gap between Barcelona, Real Madrid and rest of La Liga has closed'

Messi also believes that the gap between Barcelona, Real Madrid and the rest of La Liga has closed.

Barcelona leads Madrid on goal difference at the top of the table on 34 points, with Sevilla three points back in third. However, just three points separate fourth-place Real Sociedad on 27 points and Granada in ninth.

Barcelona has lost three and drawn one of its 15 games this season, while Madrid has drawn four and lost one. Messi thinks it displays that the strength of the teams across the league has improved.

"Everything is becoming more and more even," the Argentina forward said at an Adidas media event on Wednesday.

"They have been for several years and we notice that there is more equality, that any team beats any other team, which is increasingly difficult to play as an away team.

"The teams have become stronger at home because they know that in order to achieve their goals they must do it well at home. This makes everything more equal and more complicated."

Messi has one eye on El Clasico with Madrid on December 18 and has no doubt the fixture will once again be pivotal in the title race.

"I expect a very strong Real Madrid," Messi added. "They have shown it in the last matches, in LaLiga and in the Champions League.

"Barca v Madrid and Madrid v Barca are always special matches. It doesn't matter how the teams arrive, although it's true that we both go into it at a good time."

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