Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez arrive at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning. Photo: @Masandawana via Twitter

They are here! Spanish champions Barcelona, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez in tow, arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning ahead of their big clash against Mamelodi Sundowns tonight.

Messi and Co landed at OR Tambo International Airport just before 8am SA time, and were greeted by throngs of fans in the arrivals hall and outside their bus.

While they didn’t speak to the media, the players waved to the fans and photographers – with chants of “Messi! Messi! Messi!” and vuvuzelas being blown – as they made their way to the bus ahead of tonight’s 6.15pm kickoff in the Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup at the FNB Stadium.

However, there was some drama as Sundowns posted on their Twitter account that Barcelona defender Lucas Digne was “held back by customs with a high fever”.

It is not clear if Digne will be allowed into the country at the time of publishing.

Just before leaving Barcelona, German goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen expressed his excitement about visiting South Africa for the first time.

“Can’t wait to be in a country I have never been to. It’s short, but interesting to see - overall the football culture. Next stop: South Africa!

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“Thank you! Looking forward to this special trip and to play in a match which is part of celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela.”


IOL Sport