Club Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet says he may be facing the greatest footballer in the world, Lionel Messi, when they play Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday in the Champions League, but he draws solace from a previous European encounter.
The 33-year-old Belgian international was part of the Liverpool squad that beat Barcelona 4-0 in the Champions League semi-final second leg clash in 2019.
However, he admits that Brugge have a huge challenge ahead of them in their opening group game against a PSG team that could field Messi and his two fellow superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe together for the first time this season.
“It is normal that one talks more about PSG than Club Brugge,” Mignolet said at the eve-of-match press conference.
“We are not only playing against PSG but also against the biggest star in the world.
“We are humble, we know that we are playing against the strongest, but we accept the challenge.
“I am proud to be on the same pitch and to play against players like that, but we have to be at our highest level to try and win the match.”
Mignolet, who was also on the bench for Liverpool’s 2019 Champions League final victory over Tottenham with Alisson Becker between the posts, said Brugge had their plan in place to try and blunt the fearsome PSG strikeforce.
“We know that…,” he said before bursting into laughter “…it will be difficult to keep the scoreline at zero but that is not just down to me the goalkeeper.
“We have our plan. We worked to find the best manner of defending as a unit and also to hurt them.
“With our supporters behind us, we are not alone.”
Club Brugge coach Philippe Clement said for his players this clash was a step into a rarified atmosphere.
“This is the first time for many of the players to play against world class opponents,” said Clement.
“It is another level even to Real Madrid who we played a couple of seasons ago.
“But these are the matches you want to play, to pit your wits against the best in the world and to prove oneself.”
Mignolet said the coaches had left nothing to chance although the reality of match time was impossible to replace.
“We laughed with the goalkeeping coach because we have a machine that fires balls at the same speed as the players,” he said.
“But I said to him that no machine can do the same thing as the biggest star in the world.”