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Champions League Preview: Barcelona (H)

March 5, 2007

The Kop in full swing

The outcome of Tuesday night’s Champions League match against Barcelona at Anfield, will either keep our season alive for another couple of weeks or bring it to a premature end, with two and a half months of the season left to play.

Our fantastic result from the first leg at the Nou Camp gives us a great chance to make it to the Quarter Finals but the game is far from over. Barcelona have nothing to lose so will feel under no pressure to perform or produce some of their customary attacking football. They have already been written off in Spain, and their result against their closest rivals in La Liga, Sevilla, has added to an already negative image of Barca, in the Spanish media.

We need to find the right balance between keeping our defence, especially our fullbacks, protected from the wizadry of Ronaldinho and Messi, and the pace of a returning Eto’o and Guily, and picking our moments to hit them on the break and building attacks. We also need to hassle Xavi and make sure he has no time on the ball to thread passes to Barca’s danger men.

I don’t think we will sit back and produce an ultra defensive performance that was so common under Gerard Houllier during his reign. Rafa isn’t that type of manager anyway and he knows we are at our best when we attack teams straight off, with a high tempo, as we did against Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea, when we went on to lift the trophy back in 2005.

It should be another great European night at Anfield but it will mean nothing if we get knocked out. Regardless of what happens on Tuesday night, Rafa has a free ride until the end of the season to finish in the top 4, as I have a feeling a lot of fans are looking towards the summer to see who he signs and who he sells to produce a genuine title challenge. If he fails to at least push for the title next season after spending big, then Rafa may find himself under a bit of pressure for the first time since he took charge at Anfield.

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