By Richard Clarke

Abou Diaby has called on his Arsenal team-mates to put Lionel Messi out of their minds ahead of the Champions League Knockout Round first leg tie at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday and defend as a team.

The little Argentinean maestro proved to be the difference in last season’s Quarter-Final with four goals in the return game at the Nou Camp. It was just one example of why the 23-year-old is reckoned to be the best footballer on the planet right now.

Once again, Messi will command column inches in the build-up to the clash of arguably Europe’s most eye-catching teams. But according to Diaby, he must not draw the attention of all the Arsenal defenders.

“We need to be focused on the way we defend and not be focused on one man,” the Frenchman told “We know that individually he is really good but if we do the job together I think it will be difficult for him. For me, that is the best way to control him and control the game.

“When you focus on one man it is never a good idea because they have also got Iniesta, Xavi, Villa - so many players. The most important thing is to be well organised defensively and, when we have got the ball, play our game.

“I watch Barcelona play quite often because I like the way they play, the way they move and obviously they have got the best player in the world.

“We know that this is a great team but we have a very good side with very good players. We can beat anybody in the world. We just need to be conscious of our qualities and play our game.”

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15 Feb 2011