Lionel Messi gallery: Argentina ace steps up World Cup bid at Barcelona training ground

David Cooper 5/06/2018
Fitness work: Lionel Messi looks in optimum shape for the World Cup.

Lionel Messi continued his preparations for World Cup 2018 in very familiar surroundings.

The Argentina squad are this week training at Barcelona‘s famed Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper base, which is Messi’s home, day in, day out, when playing for his club.

The 30-year-old has already given his team-mates a tour of the facility as they get ready for Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in Group D.

Check out the maestro training in the gallery above!

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Diego Maradona says Lionel Messi has nothing to prove to Argentina at World Cup

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Simpler times: Maradona and Messi at the 2010 World Cup.

Diego Maradona believes Lionel Messi has nothing to prove to Argentina fans ahead of the World Cup this month.

Messi has failed to match his glittering record of club success at the international level, having yet to win a trophy with Argentina. La Albiceleste have not won the World Cup since Maradona led them to the trophy in 1986.

However, the older Argentina legend says his younger counterpart should not play with the burden of having to win in order to cement his legacy.

“I would advise Messi to keep playing, to enjoy the game,” Maradona told Omnisport.

“He has to forget about the critics, if he can win the World Cup or not.

“He doesn’t have to demonstrate anything. He has to enjoy the game on the field.

“I don’t know [coach Jorge] Sampaoli, I don’t know how he plays. But, I know a lot of the players and I know they will give everything.

“And I think they have a good opportunity to win. But I don’t choose [Argentina] as a favourite because the favourite one never wins.”

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Argentina's friendly sells out in 20 minutes with Lionel Messi expected to play

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Lionel Messi and Argentina will play Israel in Jerusalem on June 9.

Argentina’s friendly in Jerusalem next month against Israel sold out within 20 minutes of tickets being put op for sale.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi is expected in the line-up for the June 9 friendly at the Teddy Stadium, which has a capacity of 31,733 seats.

“No sporting event has ever caused such hysteria in Israel,” the Le’an agency handling ticket sales said, adding that nearly 100,000 people applied for tickets when the were put up for sale on Sunday. Only 20,000 are available.

Prices ranged between 44 shekels (roughly $12 or €10) for children and soldiers to 825 shekels for VIP seats, but were being resold for up to 4,500 shekels on social media networks.

The Israel friendly will be Argentina’s second preparatory fixture before the World Cup, after a May 29 game against Haiti.

Their first match in the summer tournament is against Iceland on June 16, followed by a June 21 fixture against Croatia and their closing game of the group stage against Nigeria on June 26.

Israel haven’t qualified for the World Cup since 1970, finishing fourth in their qualifying group behind Spain, Italy, and Albania this time around.

Argentina have a history of playing Israel in friendlies to get ready for the World Cup. They lost 2-1 in a 1998 fixture, but a Maradona-led side thrashed Israel 7-2 before the 1990 World Cup.

Next month’s fixture will start after dark in order to allow observant Jews to watch either at the stadium or on TV without violating their Sabbath, which prohibits traveling by motorised transport and the use of electricity. The Sabbath will run from Friday evening to Saturday evening.

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