ABU DHABI (AFP) - Barcelona will go into the FIFA Club World Cup as favourites to win the competition for the first time, but winger Lionel Messi says they must learn the lessons from their last involvement.
The Club World Cup is the only international honour missing from Barcelona's well-stocked trophy cabinet after their previous attempt to win it, in 2006, ended in a 1-0 defeat to Brazilian side Internacional.
"I think the most important lesson we've learned is not to be over-confident and to get to know our opponents in depth," said Messi, in an interview with the FIFA website on the eve of the December 9-19 tournament here.
"The last time we maybe thought that the other sides were a bit below us and that's something we can't afford to let happen again if we want to be champions."
Victory in the tournament would crown a remarkable year for current Spanish league leaders Barcelona, who last season won the Champions League, Spanish league and King's Cup to claim an unprecedented treble.
It has also been an unforgettable 12 months for Messi, who last week became the first Argentine player to be named European Footballer of the Year when he was awarded the prestigious Ballon d'Or by France Football magazine.
"It's one title the club has never won and it's one title that?s eluded most of the players at Barca," said Messi.
"It's also the last competition of what's been a historic 2009 and we want to end the year in style. On a personal level, I'm really looking forward to it because it will help me keep on developing."
Barcelona's strongest challenge is likely to come from Messi's homeland, with South American champions Estudiantes set to enter the competition at the semi-final stage alongside the Catalan club.
Estudiantes won the Intercontinental Cup, the precursor to the current competition, by beating Manchester United in 1968 and finished runners-up in the two years afterwards.
Their participation in Abu Dhabi marks a return to the event after a 39-year absence, but a strand of continuity running between the sides can be found in the shape of Estudiantes midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron, whose father Juan Ramon starred in the 1968 victory over United.
"It's an enriching experience for all of us, for the older players, who will be leading the way, and the younger ones, who'll be taking up the baton in the future," said Veron.
"You have to make them aware of what it means to be there, how fantastic it is. It's also important that nobody sits back and says 'I've made it now'. With a tournament like this you have to want to come back and experience it again."
The competition's other teams cannot boast players with reputations to match Messi or Veron, but all - with the exception of host club Al-Hahli - are continental champions.
South Korean side Pohang Steelers (Asia), Congolese outfit Tout Puissant Mazembe (Africa) and Mexico's Atlante (CONCACAF) will provide the biggest threat to the two heavyweights.
Auckland, who play Al-Hahli in the tournament's opening game on Wednesday, are the reigning champions from the Oceania region.
"We didn?t score a single goal in 2006 and that was a big disappointment for us," said Auckland captain Ivan Vicelich.
"We've prepared well this year though, and we're going to score a lot of goals. We've been talking about this match for weeks now and we need to go out and execute our gameplan."
The winners of the match between Al-Hahli and Auckland will join TP Mazembe, Atlante and Pohang Steelers in the quarter-finals, where a potential meeting with Pep Guardiola's Catalan conquerors Barcelona will be at stake.
|Kasperczak committed to attacking approach as Tunisia reach AFCON quarters|
|Slimani wants Algeria youngsters to learn from AFCON humiliation|
|Senegal 2 Algeria 2: Slimani at the double as Desert Warriors bow out|
|Zimbabwe 2 Tunisia 4: First-half glut seals progression|
|Adrian: I always wanted to return to Villarreal|
|Togo v DR Congo: Agassa could miss crucial game after vandals hit home|
|Extended Southampton stay on the cards for Sims|
|Bayern hoping for speedy Vidal return|
|Hull sign Markovic on loan from Liverpool|
|Wenger charged with misconduct by FA|
|Deulofeu joins AC Milan - and this time the deal is definitely done!|
|Henderson still playing through pain, reveals Klopp|
|Record-breaking Rooney reveals secret to longevity|
|No ulterior motive behind Van Dijk captaincy call - Puel|
|Carroll ignoring want-away Payet|
|Gerrard´s managerial ambitions ´wonderful news for Liverpool´ - Klopp|
|PSG interested in Guedes, confirms Emery|
|Barca lose Busquets to sprained ankle|
|Pulisic commits to Dortmund until 2020|
|Mason speaking after suffering fractured skull|
|Aubameyang blames poor preparation for Gabon AFCON exit|
|David Beckham returns to PSG|
|Morocco v Ivory Coast: Holders must beat old boss Renard as group reaches thrilling conclusion|
|Djilobodji charged over Fletcher incident|
|Cahill and Terry visit Mason in hospital|
|Allardyce onto second-choice transfer targets|
|Dortmund sign teenager Isak|
|Madrid confirm Modric and Marcelo injury blows|
|Vidal fears longer lay-off, targets return against Arsenal|
|Yaya Toure: Sterling should have dived!|
|Turan wants to see out Barcelona contract despite China talk|
|Impassioned Ibrahimovic attacks Rooney´s critics|
|´He has to lose weight´ – Mihajlovic angry after dropping Maxi Lopez|
|Lack of Liverpool signings frustrates Klopp|
|Suarez: Busquets difficult to replace for Barca|
|Depay impresses Lyon after debut|
|CSL? Rooney committed to United|
|Denis Suarez wants more goals after opening Barca account|
|Simeone bemoans inconsistency but says Atletico are improving|
|Mourinho won´t stand in the way of Rooney and CSL|
|Dzeko on target as Roma stay on Juve´s tail|
|Rakitic ready to cover for injured Busquets|
|Bale and Kane wish Mason well after serious injury|
|Busquets injury less severe than feared - Luis Enrique|
|Mason in stable condition after skull fracture|
|Senegal v Algeria: Misfiring favourites in last-chance saloon|
|PSV provide perfect finish for darts champ Van Gerwen|
|Broos predicts ´something great´ for Cameroon|
|Eibar 0 Barcelona 4: MSN see Barca to victory after Busquets blow|
|Busquets sustains ankle ligament damage in Eibar v Barcelona|
|Cameroon 0 Gabon 0: Aubameyang miss haunts hosts as AFCON campaign ends|
|Guinea-Bissau 0 Burkina Faso 2: Traore on target as Stallions advance|
|Busquets injury at Eibar compounds Barcelona midfield woes|
|Deulofeu lands in Italy ahead of AC Milan move|
|´I made the best decision´ - Conte basks in Costa recall|
|Wenger urges Xhaka not to ´punish´ Arsenal|
|Ex-Bastia man Palmieri questions Balotelli racial abuse claims|
|Costa reaction hailed by Cahill|
|Manchester City must be mentally strong, says embattled Bravo|
|Chelsea 2 Hull City 0: Costa back with a bang for Blues|
|Koke lauds Griezmann ´stroke of genius´ as Atletico snatch draw|
|Pioli questions Ansaldi dismissal|
|´I should have shut up and I apologise´ - Wenger sorry for ref rant|
|Arsenal can be proud of this red-card record|
|Mustafi: Arsenal never give up|
|Higuain: Lazio posed no threat to Juventus|
|Athletic Bilbao 2 Atletico Madrid 2: Griezmann magic rescues point|
|Puel unsure Van Dijk will be fit for Liverpool clash|
|Free-scoring Monaco return to Ligue 1 summit|
|Arsenal 2 Burnley 1: Sanchez snatches thrilling win for 10-man Gunners|
|Palermo 0 Inter 1: Joao Mario strike extends Inter streak|
|Arsenal fans give Alexis Sanchez paws for thought|
|Costa returns to Chelsea XI to face Hull City|
|Inter cannot delude fans about Messi - Ausilio|
|Allegri admits new Juventus formation was a ´mad idea´|
|Leicester boss Ranieri admits to tactical mistakes|
|Zimbabwe v Tunisia: Kasperczek demands ruthlessness with quarter-final spot on the line|
|Southampton 3 Leicester City 0: Saints end losing streak but suffer potential Van Dijk blow|
|Juventus 2 Lazio 0: Dybala and Higuain strikes see leaders return to form|
|Iborra makes a mark at both ends as Sevilla scrape past Osasuna|
|Pogba hails ´brother´ Griezmann as Manchester United speculation continues|
|Costa fight rumour ´not nice´, says Courtois|
|Henry makes emotional Ozil plea: Stay and become an Arsenal legend|
|Welbeck still has huge promise, says Wenger|
|A-League Review: Wanderers finally end home hoodoo|
|Tevez denies he´s highest-paid player after CSL move|
|Napoli capable of greatness - Sarri|
|Montella proud of Milan display against Napoli|
|Ramos tells Madrid fans: We need support|
|Conte: Costa committed to Chelsea|
|Callejon credits ´Maradona effect´ as Napoli down AC Milan|