CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Lampard ready for tough Barca test
LONDON: Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard admits finding a way to beat Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals will be the toughest challenge of his career.
Lampard has locked horns with Barca on several occasions and has come up against many of Europe's other top teams throughout his career, but he believes the Spaniards' current star-studded line-up will be the finest he has ever faced.
Most pundits make Pep Guardiola's team favourites to advance to the final in Munich and even Lampard can see why after spending many hours admiring the skills of Barca stars like Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Chelsea warmed up for tomorrow's first leg against the European champions at Stamford Bridge with a 5-1 demolition of Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley, but Lampard admits that is unlikely to have caused any sleepless nights for a team of Barca's quality.
"I understand people saying we are underdogs because everyone has this feeling with Barcelona that they can roll over anyone. Of course, with the players they have like (Lionel) Messi, they can do that," Lampard said.
"Barcelona won't underestimate us but beating Tottenham is not a warning to them. They have proved the team they are.
"It is probably the biggest challenge I've faced. There aren't many teams you would fancy against Barcelona over two legs in a semi-final.
With Argentine forward Messi enjoying one of the greatest individual seasons in the history of the game, it is clear who poses the biggest threat to Chelsea's dreams of a second Champions League final appearance.
Lampard claims Messi has surpassed even his fellow Argentine Diego Maradona as the best player of all-time.
"He has improved since we played them in 2009 and he was a fantastic player then. The levels he has taken his game to is something I have never seen before," Lampard said.
"I grew up on Maradona. He was my idol and I think Messi has taken it to higher levels than him.
"To get close to 70 goals is crazy. He deserves it. He is the best player in the world." AFP