Barcelona FC's Lionel Messi (left) and Luis Suarez (right) arrive alongside their teammates at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on May 16, 2018. AFP PHOTOBarcelona FC's Lionel Messi (left) and Luis Suarez (right) arrive alongside their teammates at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on May 16, 2018. AFP PHOTO
By DAVID KWALIMWA

Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates touched down in South Africa on Wednesday morning, stoking excitement across the country’s football fraternity ahead of a friendly match against Mamelodi Sundowns.

The Spanish champions will face their South African counterparts in a post season friendly match, dubbed the Mandela Centenary Cup, on Wedneday at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg from 7pm East African time.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has picked arguably his strongest squad for this assignment, including Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, German keeper Marc-André ter Stegen, Gerard Pique and former Liverpool midfielder Phillipe Coutinho.

STRONG SQUAD

There also are fringe players in the squad such as Ousmane Dembele, and Lucas Digne, whom Sundowns reported was briefly held at the South African airport owing to a fever.

Similarly, Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane is expected to name his strongest squad available for this clash with stars like Ugandan keeper Denis Onyango and star striker Khama Billiat lining up.

Sundowns are reported to have paid upto Sh800 million to Barca, plus additional costs, as appearance fees for this contest.

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