Lionel Messi: Barcelona Must 'Start from Scratch' and Forget Recent UCL Upsets

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 12, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 07: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Mallorca at Camp Nou on December 07, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has said the team must "start from scratch" and forget their disappointments in recent UEFA Champions League campaigns if they are to improve this season. 

The Blaugrana are through to the competition's knockout stages for the 19th season in a row, having secured a first-placed finish in Group F with one game to spare:

B/R Football @brfootball

🌟 The last 16 of the Champions League is set 🌟 https://t.co/uR11kAPleI

Messi, 32, was speaking at an Adidas event when he said (h/t Goal's Tom Webber):

"To be honest, it's always there. 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."

Manager Ernesto Valverde hopes to make up for upsets against Liverpool and AS Roma in recent European campaigns, when Barca were eliminated after losing three-goal cushions.

The Catalan giants beat quarter-finalists Roma 4-1 at home in April 2018 but were dumped out via away goals after they lost 3-0 in Rome. Barcelona fell to another comeback last season when they hammered Liverpool 3-0 before the eventual champions beat Messi and Co. 4-0 at Anfield to progress to the final.

Valverde looks to have learned some lessons since then and changed almost his entire starting XI on Tuesday, when Barca defeated Inter Milan 2-1 at the San Siro to knock out the Nerazzurri (UK viewers only):

Carles Perez scored their first in Italy before Ansu Fati, 17, became the youngest player to score in the Champions League following his late winner off the bench (U.S. viewers only):

Bleacher Report Live @brlive

Barcelona's 17-year-old Ansu Fati waves goodbye to Inter's Champions League season ✨ https://t.co/joLITbWZJx

Valverde has encountered scrutiny for failing to properly rotate his team between competitions, but Tuesday's result was a positive test of his squad's strength in depth.

Romelu Lukaku gave Inter a lifeline in their hopes of reaching this season's last 16, but Antonio Conte couldn't prevent his side finishing third in the group and dropping into the UEFA Europa League (U.S. only):

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Lukaku equalizes 🚨 ➡️ https://t.co/deW37r3PFy https://t.co/e8Ovwv4m3v

BBC Sport's Andy West recommended Barcelona do away with their three-man defensive structure despite the win over Inter:

Andy West @andywest01

Judging by the first ten minutes, Valverde's three-man backline experiment won't be repeated. Not exactly looking secure

Valverde's side are level on points with Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and are well placed to defend their domestic crown, but Barcelona haven't reached a European final since he took charge in 2017. Their most recent appearance in a Champions League decider was when they won the tournament in 2015.

The club might have won Europe's premier club competition twice under Valverde were it not for two shock losses, but Messi isn't dwelling on that as he hopes to turn the page and get Barcelona out of their Champions League rut this term.