Romelu Lukaku, Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling at the Aon Training Complex.

Smalling: 'I want to play against teams like this'

Chris Smalling insists he and his Manchester United team-mates cannot wait to take on Barcelona on Wednesday evening.

Ernesto Valverde’s men travel to Old Trafford this week for the first time since 2008, to play the first leg of our Champions League quarter-final clash.

The Reds have become well versed in facing daunting cup draws this season, and we have beaten the likes of Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, while also eliminating Arsenal and Chelsea in the Emirates FA Cup.

Highlights: United 1 Barcelona 0Video

Therefore, it’s no surprise United have welcomed the challenge of taking on one of the world’s best in Barcelona, as Smalling told the club’s official magazine Inside United, which is on sale now.

“All our draws this season – be it FA Cup or Champions League – we don’t have the easy draws, and we thrive off playing big teams like that,
“ said the 29-year-old. 

“After the PSG game, we know that we can go away to the big teams and get results. We’re just looking forward to it. Let’s take it on.”


Barcelona have won Europe’s premier competition three times in the past decade and have claimed the Spanish league title in seven of the last 10 seasons, meaning the Nou Camp outfit are among the toughest sides we could have been paired with in the quarter-finals.
Despite that, Smalling has revealed there was a huge cheer when United were drawn against the Catalan club.

“We were warming up on the bikes in the gym [when the draw was made],”
he said.
“Normally we do 10 minutes on the bike and then we do some gym activation, but I think we stayed on the bikes for maybe 20 minutes just because we saw the draw was on the TV.

“We were all excited. As soon as it came out, we were all happy. We cheered and then we got on with training. But at least we knew who was in front of us.

“When the draw was made, you think, ‘I want to play against teams like this.’ I was injured or just coming back from being injured for the first game [of the last 16 against PSG], so it was nice to be able to test yourself against the best, and I think PSG are one of the best teams in the world.”
Chris Smalling tackels Kylian Mbappe.
Chris Smalling denies Kylian Mbappe at the Parc de Princes.

“[Kylian] Mbappe is probably one of the most in-form strikers in the world as well. I love to challenge myself against the best and that’s the good thing about this club: you’re always playing against the best because you’re getting a lot further in competitions.

While there is little Smalling has not experienced since signing for the Reds in 2010, Wednesday could see the former Fulham man take on Lionel Messi for the first time at this level.

“I’ve not played against him competitively, personally, but in friendlies and pre-season we have,” he said. “That’s someone else who I’m looking forward to playing against and hopefully minimising as many chances as possible, because we know what a world-class player he is. But it’s not just him; I think they’re a world-class team. 

The cover of Inside United.
The front cover of the latest edition of Inside United, the official club magazine.

“We need to make sure that whatever game-plan we have – just like PSG – that we stick to it and everything falls into line. We know that we can give any team a right go.”

The full interview with Chris Smalling appears in the latest edition of Inside United, on sale now, including at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

You can also order a copy online from manutd.com/magazine

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