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EUROPA LEAGUE

Pedri plays down Messi comparisons after superb strike

Barcelona advanced to the quarter-finals of the Europa League thanks in large to Pedri, who scored a wonder goal straight out of the Lionel Messi playbook.

Update:
Pedri plays down Messi comparisons after superb strike
DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Pedri says it is madness to compare his goal against Galatasaray to one of the many scored by Lionel Messi after the young midfielder helped Barcelona overcome their Turkish rivals on Thursday night. The 19-year-old levelled up in the Europa League last-16 second leg with an impressive goal before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck to earn Barça a 1-2 victory.

Pedri collected the ball in the opposition box, shimmied past both Marcao and Berkan Kutlu and then slotted past Barca loanee Inaki Peña. It was a goal that had all the hallmarks of a trademark Messi goal in the famous Blaugrana colours, but Pedri could not see the comparisons.

"The truth is I can't really remember the goal, I'll have to see it repeated," he told Movistar+.  "I know Ferran Torres gave it to me and I thought about shooting, but I faked the shot because I could see a leg, then I faked again until I could find a gap. I don't remember much about the play; these things happen on the pitch. But comparing one of my goals to Messi is crazy."

Pedri pulls Barcelona level

Pedri's goal arrived nine minutes after home skipper Marcao opened the scoring in the two-legged tie after getting in front of Ferran Torres to head in Alexandru Cicaldau's corner. "Their goal helped us face up to the match better. It was difficult to come here at 0-0 and play on a pitch that is so tight – I haven't played on a pitch like that, it was crazy."

At the age of 19 years and 112 days, Pedri is the first player under 20 to score for Barcelona in the UEFA Cup or Europa League since Ivan De La Peña in April 1996.

Barça coach Xavi recently compared Pedri to club legend Andrés Iniesta and reiterated after the Gala win that the sky is the limit for the Spain international. "He is capable of this and so much more," Xavi said. "He has patience in his play and scored a great goal. He is a privilege to coach.  It was a spectacular goal, sublime. In addition, he generates moves with his individual actions.

Thanks to Pedri's strike and Aubameyang's second-half effort at a hostile NEF Stadyumu, Barça are now in the hat for Friday's quarter-final draw. The Catalans are unbeaten in 11 games since the tail end of January, making this their best-such run since January 2020 when Ernesto Valverde was in charge.

Xavi recently stated his side cannot be considered the favourites, despite their standing as one of Europe's most successful ever clubs, but Pedri disagrees. "We are enjoying playing our football and that shows on the pitch," he said. "We have to go match-by-match but, yes, I think we are the favourites. We're going to go all out."

Barcelona have now progressed from eight of their past nine ties in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup and Europa League, their only elimination coming against Celtic in 2003-04.

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