ESPN FC Extra: New faces of the Champions League
Lionel Messi admits the memories of Barcelona's humiliating Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich last season will play firmly on his mind when the Spanish champions open their European campaign against Ajax on Wednesday.
The Argentinean is eager to get the new Champions League season underway to atone for his side's 7-0 aggregate defeat to Bayern.
Messi refused to make excuses for Barca's disappointing showing in the semi-finals last term but is ready to return the Catalan giants to the pinnacle of Europe.
"We always wanted to achieve more," he told UEFA's official website. "Winning the league was very important because of what it signified -- winning it back after Real Madrid had won it last year.
"There's also a bitter taste after what happened in the semi-final against Bayern Munich, where there was a big gap between the two teams -- we didn't go into it in our best shape.
"But that's the past and we have to look forward. What happened against Bayern? They were just the better team in all respects, physically and in football terms too. They just played a great first leg, and had the advantage over the tie, so they were really superior to us."
Messi insists Barca will not be taking any of their group opponents -- Celtic, AC Milan or Ajax -- lightly but is confident new coach Gerardo Martino will have a positive influence in helping his team qualify.
"It's a difficult group, but we knew that would be the case. It's very difficult to win the Champions League -- it's already hard from the start," he added. "I think the groups are very even, very balanced, so there will be some great games. We hope to play at our best level to be able to qualify.
"There are top class, historic teams in our group -- big names. Teams that we've faced before, so we know them a bit. Maybe not so with Ajax, but we've watched them. It's an exciting group.
"Our adaptation with the new coach has been very quick. We try to do what he's asking -- play football the way we always did. Of course he's a new coach with new ideas, but our mentality is the same as ever: start in the best possible way to be able to win all the trophies we're playing for.
"We try to give our fans the best, as we've always done. We know we need each other's support and hopefully this will be a year where we can celebrate together."