Bayer Leverkusen won't alter strategy vs. Barcelona, says Javier Hernandez
Bayer Leverkusen forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez said the Bundesliga club have no plans to change strategy whether or not Barcelona have star forward Lionel Messi in the squad for Tuesday's Champions League Group E match at Camp Nou (Live on ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN, 2:45 p.m. ET).
"That is a question for the coach, I am not the person to answer that nor comment on it," the Mexico star told Marca. "We are going with the same idea, knowing that it is 11 against 11 and that we will be at their home, but that we have the chance to achieve something very important."
Messi, who scored a total of 60 goals and set up 28 more in 60 appearances to help Barcelona capture a Primera Division, Champions League and Copa del Rey treble last season, hurt his left knee in Saturday's 2-1 win against Las Palmas and will be sidelined for two months.
"If I play, I will do what the manager says," the 27-year-old said. "We know that they are the defending champions. And of course, his absence can have an influence, given his capacity and all that he represents. Everyone knows who Messi is. Luis Enrique has said so and so have his teammates.
"Everyone knows what it is like when a player like Messi is not on the field. The opponent can benefit from his absence just the same when that they can be affected when he is there. But I repeat. We have to be respectful. I can't be happy that he is injured. This is Bayer against Barca. The 11 starters who the coaches select will be the best and there will be 10 others to offer support."
Barcelona began their Champions League title defence with a 1-1 draw at Roma in their pool opener. Since losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich in May 2013, the Blaugrana are unbeaten at home in the competition, winning their last six games at Camp Nou.
Bayer beat BATE Borisov in their group opener 4-1 at the BayArena and Hernandez scored his first goal with the Bundesliga club, who warmed up for the trip to Spain with a 3-0 triumph at Werder Bremen on Saturday.
Nor would Hernandez be drawn into a debate about who are the better club -- his former team Real Madrid or Barcelona.
"All the teams in Champions League are all difficult to beat," Hernandez said. "I am not a manager, I am a player. There are different playing styles but the degree of difficulty is the same. I am no longer thinking about Madrid, I can't compare them. Right now I have to worry about Barca, Roma and BATE [Borisov], those who are in my group."
Hernandez insisted he is not bothered by a change of clubs and leagues.
"Life is about change and I am happy with the changes. Whether it makes me uncomfortable or not, I no longer care about that. This is what happened and now I have to adapt and give it my all as I have on all my previous teams and with the national team as well," he said, adding that he is not interested in making comparisons between leagues.
"People want me to say that La Liga has this but the Premier doesn't," Hernandez said. "They are different cultures, countries and languages. Their championships are different. It is obvious. Of the four league in which I have played -- I am not forgetting the Mexican League -- they are all big. I feel as though this one is top level. And I value the interest that this great club have taken in me and I am here to enjoy it."
Asked whether last year was the toughest in his career, Hernandez said that all the years have been difficult, including this season.
"They have also been the nicest because I have learned a lot -- both good and bad," he said. "I leave the past behind me. I use it as motivation to understand what I have accomplished and what I have not done as well. I don't regret anything that I have done. Regret doesn't exist in my life, only learning. For me, each year has been different, but each one has been the best in that moment. I don't like to be bitter about memories that I can't change. The challenges in my life have given me strength and learning so that when good things come along I know how to take advantage of them. Challenges are good, that is my way of seeing life."
Hernandez rejected the notion that complaining to a reporter about lack of playing time last season resulted in his inclusion on Real Madrid's squad.
"I answered that way because no one had previously asked me how I felt about not playing," Hernandez said "That Fox reporter asked me and I answered. If I told you I was happy about not playing I would have to retire from football. So even though I responded that way, I returned to Madrid but I still did not play. I don't think my answer [to the reporter] at all affected my playing time. I began to play, sadly, when two players were injured. But in my mind, I never wanted anyone to get injured so that I could play.
"It is tough to not be playing but in our job there is always a wait," Hernandez said. "And the waiting is the hardest part. In this job, when you are working you know whether you did a good job or a bad job, but when you don't play you don't know whether you did good or bad. You train, you are with the team but you don't do anything. You don't participate, you don't play an important role. That is difficult."
Asked whether he learned patience at Real Madrid, or whether he had already learned enough with Manchester United, Hernandez said: "I have been learning patience my entire life. Always."