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Free-scoring Catalan giants Barca profiled

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Free-scoring Catalan giants Barca profiled

Postby FCBayernNews » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:00 pm

Did UEFA have a premonition? Whoever was responsible for the seating plan in Nyon placed the Barcelona and Bayern representatives right next to each other. FCB chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Barca president Joan Laporta, close personal friends in any case, merely had to lean to one side in order to swap opinions on Friday's Champions League quarter-final draw.

"I really regret the fact one of these two teams will be knocked out at this early stage," said Laporta after shaking Rummenigge's hand. "It'll be a complicated task for us. We can't afford any complacency against Bayern," the Barca supremo continued, "I'm expecting magical nights of football between two clubs who enjoy a very close relationship."

Rummenigge rates Barcelona as "clear favourites" for the tie. "They have an outstanding team with practically no weaknesses," agreed Mark van Bommel, a Champions League winner with the Catalan giants in 2006 just a few weeks before switching to Bavaria. "Preferably not Barcelona," the FCB captain had said in advance of the draw.

Leading La Liga

Barca have won the Spanish league 18 times and the cup on 24 occasions. Apart from their 2006 triumph in the Champions League, they sealed the European Cup in 1992. The men in red and blue currently lead La Liga in Spain by six points from champions Real Madrid, although the margin was a yawning 12 points not so many weeks ago.

The Catalans' goalscoring record this term is truly impressive, with only 24 against and a whopping 78 for, an average of three per game. Two-thirds of the goals have come from Samuel Eto'o (23), Lionel Messi (18) and Thiery Henry (14), probably the world's most potent forward line at the present time. Messi und Co have fired 24 goals in the Champions League - the same chart-leading total as Bayern. "They're the best team in Europe right now," enthused 1990 World Cup winner Andreas Brehme.

Guardiola's shake-up

Coach Josep Guardiola, who took over from the luckless Franck Rijkaard at the start of the campaign, has transformed the club's fortunes. The former Barca captain allowed Ronaldinho to depart for AC Milan, bringing in new blood with the likes of Brazil defender Daniel Alves and midfield enforcer Seydou Keita. Both switched from Sevilla to the 100,000 capacity Camp Nou, Europe's biggest stadium.

Barcelona are capable of taking apart any team in the world on their day. Bayern's group opponents Olympique Lyon suffered a 5-2 thrashing in the Round of 16, although keeper Viktor Valdes and defenders Rafael Márquez, Gabriel Milito and skipper Carles Puyol also make up a formidable rearguard.

Catalan pride

FC Barcelona is more than 'merely' a football club with 160,000 paid up members. Barca symbolise Catalan pride and independence, in bitter opposition to Real Madrid from the Spanish capital. "The people in Barcelona identify with the club against the rest of the country. That's the biggest difference," Mark van Bommel explained: "Barca is a symbol for Catalonia, a symbol of freedom. I've never experienced the feeling you have as a player there anywhere else."

"Obviously I'm looking forward to Barcelona, but on the other hand, it's the most challenging draw imaginable," Van Bommel continued. A glance at the record books might help the FCB captain's confidence. Bayern and Barcelona have met four times in Europe so far, and Bayern have yet to lose. One game was drawn, and Munich have won the other three, two of them at the feared Camp Nou.
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