TURIN – Juventus star Paulo Dybala has rediscovered his scoring form just in time as he renews his rivalry with fellow Argentina Lionel Messi in Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Barcelona.
The 30-year-old Messi scored two goals to help Barcelona to a comfortable 3-0 win over Juventus, last season’s finalists, at the Nou Camp in September.
Messi then scored a hat trick in Ecuador to carry Argentina through to the 2018 World Cup.
Dybala was on the substitutes’ bench in Quito, but the 24-year-old will be on the field in Turin, where a win will ensure Juventus reaches the knockout rounds.
Barcelona lead Group D by three points with two rounds to go, and Ernesto Valverde’s side need only a draw to advance as group winners.
Dybala made a record-setting start to the Serie A season with 10 goals in six games before suffering a dip in form.
He got back on the score-sheet in the final seconds of Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Sampdoria, to bring his tally to 12 goals in 13 games.
Since arriving in Turin from Palermo in 2015, the player dubbed “The Jewel” has scored 56 goals in 112 games. But he has yet to open his tally in Europe this term.
Messi has hit three in the Champions League this season to join Ronaldo in the exclusive club of players, who have scored 100 goals in European competition.
Diminutive, dynamic and with a deadly left foot like his idol, Dybala names Messi as a source of inspiration, although he has also spoken about how difficult it is to play alongside the superstar in the Argentine national team.
Dybala said he had been misinterpreted, adding that Messi had laughed off the comments when he tried to explain.
“Leo is like Maradona for those of our generation,” Dybala told France Football. “For me, it’s an honour to play with him in the national team.”
“He dragged us to the World Cup with the hat-trick in Ecuador. He is a born leader.”
Dybala has said that he would like one day play alongside Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Neymar.
The pair have long been tipped as heirs to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have dominated world soccer’s annual awards in recent years.
“I have to work to improve and win trophies. Once, in front of a bonfire with friends, we all made a wish – my own was to win the Ballon d’Or.”
As for his future at six-time defending Serie A champions, he added: “In football you never know, but I’m not thinking of going away.”
Barca are in top form, having won 11 and drawn one of 12 domestic matches this season to sit four points ahead of Valencia in La Liga.
Juventus, after their setback at Sampdoria, are third in Serie A.