Spyin' Kop: Barca Away, Wednesday 21st February 2007

Posted by -HH- on February 17, 2007, 04:03:56 PM

'Bring on yer Mighty Barcelona' will be the cry from the Reds' travelling support this week, but make no mistake about it the task facing our boys is a huge one - especially with our domestic form having taken a depressing dive in the past couple of weeks. A goalless draw with Everton followed by a crushing 2-1 defeat at Newcastle have signalled an end to the whispers of a renewed title challenge that had begun to spring up. In fact, if you're a form reader you'll make Barcelona overwhelming favourites to go through as they're currently coming into their best form of the season. However, that is just how we like it at Liverpool, to upset the odds when everyone is against us - and if we can stay in the tie at the Nou Camp who's to say another special Anfield night won't see us through in the second leg?

FC Barcelona v Liverpool
UEFA Champions League
Wedensday, 21st February 2007
Camp Nou
Kick Off: 7:45pm


Writing up a history of Barcelona isn't an enviable task, as in most cases I'll be telling you things you already know - with Barcelona undoubtedly being one of the most famous football clubs in the world.
Barcelona Football Club was officially formed on 29th November 1899 by a gentleman named Hans Gamper. He had been playing football with ten other enthusiasts throughout the late 1800's, when the game was of course much less known than it is today. I doubt that even in his wildest dreams he pictured where Barcelona would be today. That first meeting where Barcelona was established also meant the first Club President was employed, and Englishman named Gualteri Wild, though he was primarily a player as were all of the executives in those early days.
They host an enviable record of having won almost every trophy there is to win, missing just one international competition from their impressive record. They also have a nice link with our club, sitting as they are on 18 league titles, although it looks highly likely they'll reach that elusive 19 before we do. Or to put it more succinctly, if I hear 'Fuck off Barca FC...' I'm taking my ball and going home!


Barcelona actually played at a couple of different grounds before moving to the extremely impressive Nou Camp stadium on 24th September 1957, which even then boasted an impressive 90,000 capacity. The catalyst for the move actually concerned possibly the greatest player ever for Barca's arch rivals Real Madrid. That player was Alfredo Di Stefano. On a trip over from South America, Di Stefano impressed numerous watching scouts, which led to Barcelona negotiating with his former club River Plate for shares they still owned in the player, while Madrid (on hearing of Barca's interest) immediately tried to broker a deal with his current club. This led to the player playing for Madrid whilst being part-owned by Barcelona. Barcelona staff were unimpressed with Di Stefano's early showings and proposed to Madrid that both parties should sell their shares to Juventus. When this fell through, Barcelona agreed to sell their shares to Madrid for a fee of just $70,000. The day after Barcelona sold their remaining shares, Di Stefano played against Barca for Madrid, scoring four in a 5-0 victory. This whole affair led to the removal of then president Enric Martí Carreto. His successor Francesc Miró-Sans put the majority of his energy into the building of the Nou Camp Stadium - an impressive structure and Barcelona's home to this date. From one forgettable moment in Barcelona's history came one of its most impressive off-field achievements. And as you can see from the photo above, it's a great place to watch ants play football!

Trophy Cabinet

La Liga Winners: 1929, 1945, 1948, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1959, 1960, 1974, 1985, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2006

Copa Del Rey Champions: 1910, 1912, 1913, 1920, 1922, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1942, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1988, 1990, 1997, 1998

Spanish Supercup Winners: 1983, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2005, 2006

European Champions: 1992, 2006

Inter-Cities Fairs Cup/UEFA Cup Winners: 1958, 1960, 1966,

Cup Winners Cup Champions: 1979, 1982, 1989, 1997

European Super Cup Winners: 1992, 1997

Barcelona Recent Form


Spyin' Kop

This week's answers come from two sources - firstly our two resident Barca fans on RAWK (SpanishFan and AnotherSpanishFan) as well as the Barcelona fans on the English speaking Barca website www.fcbes.com - I'm sure a few of you will pop over there to wish them the best for the game.

SK: Welcome to Spyin' Kop. How is Barca's season going so far? Have your expectations changed since the season started?

SpanishFan: Not as well as expected. We had two important players injured at the beginning of the season, Eto'o and Messi, and a few key players have not played at their best. Yet with the quality we have plus the fact that our competitors are pretty inconsistent we have still managed to top the league. I expect Barcelona to comfortably win the Spanish league and to go far in the CH L, hopefully winning it again.

AnotherSpanishFan: It’s been a season of ups and downs.  After winning the league and Champions League titles last season it’s difficult to top that.  Barça came in with a shot at winning tons of silverware and establishing a new legacy.  Winning the Spanish Super Cup was seen more of an obligation than a success but losing the European Super Cup and the World Club Championship only added to the woes of losing the likes of Eto’o and Messi for long periods of time.  Also the team play this season hasn’t been as good consistently as years before and even though Ronaldinho has score some 15 league goals he is often accused of underperforming in many games.  Yet with the team sitting on top of the league and in the elimination rounds of both the Champions League and the King’s cup still left to play Barça still have the chance of completing another successful campaign but the verdict is still out.

Poor Sunyol: Our season has been very stop start so far. Fair enough, we are currently top of La Liga, still in the Copa, the CL and we are the Spanish Super-Copa winners but we are not playing well. This season our expectations were sky high after the style of football we played last year and it felt as nothing could stop us at some point.
However the World Cup seems to have taken it’s toll on several of our key players, Ronaldinho and Marquez especially. Neither have been in good form this season, although we have seen signs of improvement in the last match against Racing.
Injuries to Eto’o and Messi have not made life easy for us and Xavi has struggled to find his best form since his injury last season. We have also had to integrate Zambrotta into the squad, which takes time; Gudjohnsen has not been the player we were hoping for and the political situation around Saviola has not helped either.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom however and we are starting to look like our old selves again. Although we have lost a few games more than we are used to, we have also only lost 2 in La Liga it is just the draws that have taken the shine off it. The reason for the draws is because we are missing Eto’o and we don’t have decent backup to cover his loss. Great news for us is that he is back and so is Messi, so Liverpolonia beware!
As far as our expectations, well all I can do is answer for myself and I thought (rather optimistically!) that we would win the lot. Now I would take another La Liga title.

flatlander: It has been stop start with a lack of fluidity in some of the play. There have been occasions where the ball has been played expecting Samuel to be there but unfortunately he has not been and nor have his replacements.

SK: Frank Rijkaard, does anyone seriously want him out of the job in spite of his success?

SpanishFan: I don't think many Barca fans want him out. I had my reservations when he joined the club considering the very poor start and the fact that Sparta Rotterdam, his previous club had been relegated, but FR proved beyond any doubt that he is a top coach, leading Barcelona to great success and playing wonderful football in the process. I'd say this is the best Barcelona side I've ever seen and I've been following Barcelona since the times of Cruyff as a footballer.
There are strong rumours that Rijkaard is leaving for Milan at the end of the season, though.

AnotherSpanishFan: There’s been speculation for more than a year about Rijkaard leaving for his old club Milan and in sight of the recent events it will certainly be a possibility at the end of the season.  I think if he does go it will be his own choice because Barça fans are very happy with the success he’s helped us achieve while straying true to the Barça way of playing good attacking football.  Hopefully he will do so having won us more silverware.  Also, I think he and the club might feel that this present cycle of glory might be coming to a stall and it’s time for some renewal.  There’s been talk these days that perhaps one of Eto’o or Ronaldinho will move on and perhaps more new faces will come in to start a new cycle.  Of course at this point it’s all speculation, which isn’t good at this stage of the season.

Poor Sunyol: Yes. Unfortunately, although he is a great man-manager, he is rather one dimensional as a coach. He will always have a special place in my heart and I will always be thankful as he has been instrumental in our revival.

flatlander: There will always be knockers in any club and I am sure that FR has his. It is worth noting that FCB is a very political institution and that some will be against him as he is perceived to be aligned with Cruyff as is Laporta. There is also an issue with style, there is a culture at FCB that dictates that it is not "just" about winning it is about playing well; which is one of the reasons that I personally believe that Chelsea are so disliked as they are "anti football".

SK: Barcelona have an incredibly talented squad - if you could add any player in world football to the Barca squad who would it be and why?

SpanishFan: Right back and maybe holding midfielder. Alves and a young Rijkaard would fit nicely :) The holding position is  critical one. To play that position well in Barcelona system a player needs to be tactically very good, preferably tall as he needs to perform centerback duties at times, and defensively sound. Rijkaard played so well that position for Ajax.

AnotherSpanishFan: This might raise some eyebrows but I would add a central defender like Kolo Toure.  Like you said, there is a load of talent in this Barça squad and it would be difficult to add a great attacking player without taking another one off first.  So I wouldn’t touch that part of the team.  A great defender who has the physical qualities to play in an advanced line, the speed to recover and cover a lot of ground, he would help the team in that aspect.

Poor Sunyol: Chivu or a decent DM in the Makelele mould. Perhaps Essien or Diarra, someone powerful but disciplined.

Dino: Defensive midfielder. Makelele kind of player. And when I say Makelele I mean Makelele in his best days. Unfortunately there isnt anyone in the market that fits that description.

SK: Of the current squad who is your best player?

SpanishFan: Ronaldinho for his technical brilliancy and his ability to create danger out of nothing.
Deco for his versatility.
Xavi for his playmaking skills.
Eto'o for being the complete forward.
We have a few.

AnotherSpanishFan: Hard to say.  Most people will say Ronaldinho, others Eto’o.  And Messi has a bright future ahead of him.

Poor Sunyol: If you mean most skilful then you would have to say Ronaldinho or Messi. If you mean most important then it would be Deco and if you mean most influential then it would be Puyol.

flatlander: For me it is Puyol due to the combination of his consistency and heart.

Dino: Ronaldinho - no doubt.

SK: And the worst?

SpanishFan: No doubt Ezquerro.

AnotherSpanishFan: Probably Ezquerro, he doesn’t play much.  Yet one that I don’t like very much is Oleguer.  He is a local but is more famous for his political views than his football skill and he’s not that good either.

Poor Sunyol: Giuly, Belletti, Motta or Edmilson. Gudjohnsen is also making a good fist of it at the moment. Others may say Edmilson.

flatlander: For me Saviola he scores enough goals and is good in that way but he just doesn't integrate in a way that adds to the rythm of the team and spends too much time going round in circles. Others may be worse than him in terms of ability or individual skill or performance but seem to at least integrate better into the team play.

SK: Is there an underrated player you feel doesn't get the credit they deserve?

SpanishFan: Victor Valdes. He is getting better all the time. He has saved us a few times this season and was an important player in last year's CH L final. Along with Reina the best goalkeepers in Spain at present.

AnotherSpanishFan: There’s a few.  Before I’d say Deco but I think at this point realize how important he is to the team and how much we need him when he’s not playing.  Right now I’d say Victor Valdes and Iniesta.  Valdes got a lot of stick for a couple of mistakes he did last season but he’s proven many times he’s a very good young keeper.  He’s stepped up his game on important occasions when called upon and has delivered, including the CL final to name one.

Iniesta is just now starting to gain recognition but he’s been a very important player to have.  A couple of years ago he was the 12th man.  Always the first sub to come in the game when a change of pace was needed, he injected energy to the team and a lot of quality.  Last season when Xavi went down he also got more minutes and the people fell in love with him.  He’s small but very quick and has great vision.  Kind of like a new version of Xavi but more dynamic.

Poor Sunyol: Valdes, who has really improved this year, or Iniesta.

flatlander: Actually there are several but the most notable for me is either Samuel or at the moment Guddy as he was bought to do a particular job and due to injuries has had no time to do that or even integrate. He has had to play from the off in a way he is not used to. It is worth noting that when he does score they tend to be match winners! :D

SK: On to Liverpool, who is the player you fear the most?

SpanishFan: Bellamy at the Camp Nou and Crouch at Anfield. Gerrard in both games if he has one of his good games. Barcelona's left back does not get any help from Ronaldinho.

AnotherSpanishFan: It has to be Steve Gerrard.  Liverpool have many good players but Gerrard has that ability to take over a game that only the greats posses.  We saw it in the CL final when he rallied the team back and also the FA Cup final.

Poor Sunyol: Gerrard.

flatlander: I don't really fear any individual more the opposite if SG has one of those nights where he seems to think it is him and 10 others you will be up the creek! If however he remembers to paly as part of a team then you have a much netter chance. I personally rate your defence as your best team asset and Alonso/ Sissoko as your better players.

Dino: Crouch - as we are most vulnerable in aerial department.

SK: What is your feeling about Liverpool in general, and their fans?

SpanishFan: Liverpool are one of the big ones in European football but have not been at their best in recent years. Their fans are passionate, very loyal and longing to get back as England number one team.

AnotherSpanishFan: Liverpool is the most successful club in England and one of the greats in Europe.  That’s says it all.

Liverpool fans to my estimation are the best in the world supporting their team.  You just have to look at a European game at Anfield or how the fans travel in great numbers with the team.  Always singing and supporting the team.  Any fan of another club has to feel a bit of good envy and if I ever need to explain to somebody who doesn’t understand football what it’s all about I just need to show them the tape of Liverpool fans singing YNWA against Chealsea for that CL game.  I get goosebumps every time I watch it.

Poor Sunyol: Great club, great history and fanatical (loud!) support. It will be a pleasure to play you.

flatlander: Well as I have always watched out for Liverpool for 20 odd years I have an affection and respect for them. I have always been well treated at Anfield and seen many teams applauded for good play. I think generally that you can have a bit of banter with the fans more than many others and will be drinking with some reds before the game at both Barca and Anfield. :hally I think that in the next two years if the progression continues and the squad is stregnthened a little more then team play can bring you the title.

SK: What of Rafa Benitez? Is he the right man to steer Liverpool to more success?

SpanishFan: I think he is. He has already created a very solid outfit. He need better players in the final third to make the next step.

AnotherSpanishFan: Absolutely, Rafa lives football and even though he has achieved great success already in his career he won’t rest until he brings the league title back to Liverpool.  I think with the new investment Rafa will be able to go out and add the pieces that he needs to be a challenger next season.  Can’t think of a better man and manager for a club like Liverpool.

Poor Sunyol: Madrista, so part of me hates him, but I respect him as a coach even though I am not a huge fan of how he plays the game. Too defensive for my liking but you can’t argue with his record. He always sounds like a modest and honest chap in interviews.

flatlander: For the present yes as he has the dedication to the team ethic that has always been LFC's greatest asset in my opinion.

SK: What sort of line-up would you expect Rijkaard to field against Liverpool?

SpanishFan: Valdes
Oleguer Thuram (Edmilson) Puyol Zambrotta
                  Xavi                          Deco
     Iniesta (Messi)     Saviola         Dinho

Thuram has been injured recently and it is a question whether he is fit for the Liverpool game. Eto'o looks like he may be out, not having yet recovered from his knee injury. Messi seems in better form but is still not at his best and Iniesta has played well recently so he may start ahead of the Argentinian.

AnotherSpanishFan: Barça’s lineup is usually safe to assume but there’s a few questions.  Will he make any sort of change to adjust to Crouch if he plays?  Don’t think either Messi or Eto’o are fit to start but both will likely be on the squad.

If I had to guess I’d say: Valdes; Belletti, Puyol, Edmilson, Zambrotta; Marquez, Deco, Xavi, Iniesta/Giuly, Ronaldinho and Saviola.

Poor Sunyol: 4-3-3


Eto’o will not start I imagine and Gudjohnsen might be preferred, as he knows the English game. Marquez or Edmilson might also start at the back to negate the aerial threat.

SK: How do you feel about international weeks? Are you proud to see your players representing their countries or are you just nervous of injuries occuring?

SpanishFan: I like NT competitions but I feel we could do with fewer meaningless international games.

AnotherSpanishFan: If they are qualifiers they’re fine but when it comes to friendlies it just seems like a waste of time.  I’d say that most Barça fans would rather have their players fit for their teams and don’t care that much for the national team.

Poor Sunyol: Pointless and as Gibraltar is not recognised by UEFA/FIFA and nor is Catalunya I have no interest.

flatlander: I think it depends which team you follow, for me for example I could never support the current England team as it is not representative of me or my values. I could not support other teams for the same reason and I am sure that there are people of those countries who are equally disillusioned with their selections. It should be an honour to play for your country not an opportunity to secure a transfer. So if you see your selection playing with pride you may be more likely to think it worthwhile.

SK: Alvaro Arbeloa, our new signing, claims he kept Ronaldinho quiet earlier in the season - is he right or just talking himself up for a starting place?

SpanishFan: He marked Dinho out of the game. He is not lying. But Dinho was not at his best. When Dinho is at his best it is very difficult to contain him for 90 minutes, especially in high profile matches where he tends to perform very well. Arbeloa is a good defender though, and so is Finnan.

Poor Sunyol: You have to remember that he was developed by Real Madrid, although was released as they thought he was worse than Pavon ;D We drew 1-1 and he had a decent game although he did get booked for hacking at R10. Didn’t Ronaldinho score? ( SK has checked. Ronaldinho did score, but only from the penalty spot. )
Basically he is full of the proverbial.

SK: What are your memories of the night your side beat Arsenal in the final last year?

SpanishFan: Barcelona were not playing well and when Arsenal scored I felt it was going to be one of those nights. I kept telling my mate that we were going to win it but it was more to cheer him on as he was feeling even more pessimistic than me. In the end it was great joy. Nothing better than coming from behind as you surely know.

Poor Sunyol: Those whining French gits Wender and Henry mainly. I remember Arsenal trying to kill the game from the off, which was a shame as it should have been a great final.

flatlander: Being cheesed off at not being able to get there, (having had been to all the CL games last year :no ). I remember thinking it was a shame that the keeper got himself sent off which altered the game. That it was a very emotionally charged atmosphere which I was worrying about it living up to the rollercoaster ride the year before. :P

SK: A number of readers of the site will be on their way to Barcelona shortly - is there anywhere they should look out for? Great places to drink?

SpanishFan: I have only been to Barcelona twice, never during a Barca match. I guess there are plenty of bars in Las Ramblas, but I am afraid I am not the best to answer this question.

Poor Sunyol: I am sure you will all end up in Las Ramblas anyway, plenty of places to go.

flatlander: You will all end up in the same areas Las Ramblas Olimpic port etc as everyone else does anyway. One tip is try to haggle beer prices in Olimpic Port if you in a well behaved group, it sometimes works if the bars are quiet.

SK: And finally, it's the last two champions of europe head to head in the prestige tie of the round. What will happen? Give us your prediction...

SpanishFan: Barcelona are favourites but I wouldn't discard Liverpol going through. Liverpool seem to perform best against the odds, and Benitez is a great coach when it comes to nullify the opposition attacking threat. Besides, if Liverpool get a decent result at the Camp Nou it is going to be very difficult at Anfield with all the support Liverpool fans give to their team on these occasions.

Poor Sunyol: For me it all hinges on the fist leg. We need to take at least a two goal advantage to Anfield as I can’t see us managing to get a win there if we had to. Rafa knows how to hold on to a win.

Without Eto’o we will struggle up front, as your defence should cope with Saviola or Guddy, but luckily I don’t see Finnan or Riise coping with R10 or Messi. I think we will be in a better position to know whether we have found our form after our game against Valencia, so ask me on Monday!

2-0 at home and 0-0 away or a 0-1 loss at Anfield.

flatlander: Depends who is playing but:

FCB 2/3 - 1 LFC
LFC 2 - 1/2 FCB

I do think it will be close though.


Many thanks to our contributors for this Spyin' Kop. A tough tie to call but it's sure to be an interesting ride whatever happens. May the best team win.

© -HH- 2007

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