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Barcelona seek historic clean sweep

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Barcelona seek historic clean sweep

Postby FCBayernNews » Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:30 am

One similarity between Champions League quarter-final rivals Bayern and Barcelona is the scarcity of players to be seen on the clubs' training grounds right now. The Säbener Strasse is shorn of eight current internationals, and the Ciutat esportiva, the Catalans' headquarters in Sant Joan Despí on the outskirts of Barcelona, is also heavily 'depopulated' at the present time.

With ninth-placed Real Valladolid up next in La Liga, Barca coach Josep "Pep" Guardiola is without no fewer than 16 members of his first-team squad. Eleven are away on World Cup qualifying duty, while Andres Iniesta and Yaya Touré are carrying injuries sustained in last week's defeat of Malaga. Carlos Puyol, Gabriel Milito and Eric Abidal are the club's long-term absentees at the moment.

Cup final berth assured

However, the Spanish league leaders are entirely accustomed to this state of affairs during international weeks. The Azulgrana (blue-and-reds) take such hindrances in their stride, and especially so this season, as they continue a seemingly relentless pursuit of the magical treble comprising championship, knockout cup and Champions League.

The quest is coming along nicely at present. Barcelona are safely through to the final of the Copa del Rey, where the awe-inspiring line-up featuring Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o and their team-mates meet rank outsiders Athletic Bilbao on 13 May. With ten league fixtures remaining, the Catalan giants lead arch-rivals Real Madrid by six points at the head of the standings. Barca's remarkable record of 84 goals scored and an astonishing goal difference of +60 suggest new records are about to be set.

On the march

On the European front, Barca welcome Bayern to the legendary Camp Nou for the quarter-final first leg in a week's time. "They're a powerful team," Henry warned as he contemplated the meeting with Germany's most successful club. The former Arsenal man even thinks Bayern could go all the way: "Not many teams beat Sporting Lisbon 5-0 and 7-1. Bayern are capable of winning the Champions League."

However, Henry and his team-mates regard the men from Munich as merely the latest obstacle to be overcome en route to the final in Rome. In the eternal battle for Spanish supremacy with Real Madrid, the treble would represent Barcelona's greatest triumph of them all. Only four clubs have achieved the feat so far: Manchester United (1999), PSV Eindhoven (1988), Ajax (1972) and Celtic (1967).

Unsettled Valdés

The only dark cloud on the Catalan horizon right now is a simmering dispute involving keeper Victor Valdés. The shot-stopper is out of contract at the end of next season and would dearly love an extension, but only on far more generous terms. "Players only ask for what they're worth," Valdés' agent Ginés Carvajal has been quoted as saying.

The number one is keen to catch up with the big earners such as Messi, Henry and Puyol. "Víctor Valdés is the goalkeeper for Barcelona, one of the best clubs in the world, and stands on a par with Iker Casillas, Buffon or anyone else. That's not in doubt," continued Carvajal, hinting at interest in his client from "four or five" leading teams. "But there's no hurry, we're relaxed about it." Almost as relaxed, perhaps, as the scene at the Säbener Strasse and the Ciutat esportiva.
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