Ryan itching to take on Messi, Neymar and Suarez

Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan's dream of channelling his inner super hero to thwart Barcelona's trident of terror is a step closer to becoming a reality - and his sense of anticipation is at fever pitch.


The Socceroos keeper is anticipating the challenge of taking on Messi, Neymar and Suarez when Valencia play Barcelona in the Copa del Rey Source: Getty Images

With Ryan's Valencia to face the loaded-pistols of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in next week's Copa Del Rey semi-final, the 23 year-old with the elastic limbs is planning to palm away the bullets.

Man of the match during the week as Valencia saw off Las Palmas to reach the last four, Ryan has been savouring the possibility of thwarting Barca ever since signing his six-year deal with Los Che.

Knee surgery earlier in the season stalled his ambitions temporarily with Jaume Domenech winning the No.1 jersey, but a recalled Ryan has started Valencia's last five games, in which they are unbeaten, and will start again against Sporting Gijon on Monday.

But it's Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the semi-final, first leg, on Thursday which looms largest.

"Coming to Spain always provided the possibility for me to face incredible players like Messi, Suarez and Neymar ... players who everybody would want to test themselves against," Ryan said.

"They are the headline men, and rightly so, but Barcelona are a fantastic team right across the park and to hopefully be out there trying to stop them is something you dream of."

But the Socceroos keeper knows that denying a trio who have helped themselves to 45 La Liga goals between them so far this season will be akin to taming a twister.

"It's an exciting draw for sure .... an opportunity to face one of the best teams and some of the best players of all time," he added.

"It's never easy to win trophies, and no matter who we would have played it was going to be difficult.

"But it's a football game at the end of the day and we will do everything we can to win and qualify for the cup final."

The omens, at least, may favour Los Che who in four Copa clashes with Barca since 1997, have triumphed twice and gone on to win the trophy when the return leg has been at home (in 1998-1999 and 2008-2009).

Barcelona went on to lift the trophy when the return was at the Camp Nou in 2011-2012 and 1987-1998 - but this time must travel to the Mestalla.

The holders clinched their spot in the last four with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao, which completed a 5-2 aggregate victory.

More imminently, Ryan is looking for Valencia to pick up their first league win under coach Gary Neville against second last Sporting.

"Now we need to build on our success from the cup. Winning in front of our own crowd in Mestalla will move a lot of things in the right direction for us," he said.

"After the cup win there was a great atmosphere within the squad and we feel, that if we get a good result against Gijon, we might have turned a corner.

"It's one of the objectives of a big club like Valencia to be competing for trophies - and to win them.

"So it's important that we did progress to the semi-finals and one step closer to winning the cup."

While Ryan's stocks rose as he conjured a chain of saves to secure a 1-0 second leg away win over Las Palmas (2-1 on aggregate), there is little margin for error with vice-captain Diego Alves back in training after his long absence with a knee ligament injury sustained at the back end of last season to make it a three-way fight for the top spot.

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Published 31 January 2016 at 7:51am
By David Lewis