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Thursday, April 24, 2008

UEFA Champions League Preview : Barcelona VS Manchester United



Striker Thierry Henry was unable to take part in training on Monday morning because of a fever. He had been an unused substitute in Saturday's goalless Liga draw against Espanyol. Ronaldinho, Lilian Thuram, Jose Edmilson and deputy goalkeeper Albert Jorquera also missed training.Mexican defender Rafael Marquez has been suffering from bruising and inflammation in his right foot but is expected to be able partner Gabriel Milito in the heart of the Barca defence.Skipper Carles Puyol must sit out the first leg through suspension, having collected his third yellow card in this season's competition in the second leg with Schalke. Rafael Márquez, Gabriel Milito, Yaya Touré and Messi are all within a booking of a suspension.

Squad: Valdés, Jorquera, Milito, Márquez, Zambrotta, Edmílson, Sylvinho, Thuram, Abidal, Oleguer, Xavi, Iniesta, Deco, Yaya Touré, Gudjohnsen, Eto'o, Henry, Giovani, Messi, Bojan.

Manchester United

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is fit after a groin strain and is in line to play, while Wayne Rooney seems to have overcome the hip injury he sustained against Blackburn on Saturday. Owen Hargreaves and Anderson have both recovered from minor injuries, and Gary Neville and Darren Fletcher have also been named in the squad.Ferguson was in positive mood when he said of Rooney: "Sometimes you get these knocks right on the bone but I'm sure Wayne will be OK for Wednesday. Edwin van der Sar, Owen Hargreaves and Anderson should also be fit."

Squad: Van der Sar, Neville, Evra, Hargreaves, Ferdinand, Brown, Ronaldo, Anderson, Rooney, Giggs, Park, Vidic, Carrick, Nani, Scholes, Pique, O'Shea, Fletcher, Silvestre, Kuszczak, Tevez, Heaton, Welbeck.



Thierry Henry spent eight years with United's Premier League rivals Arsenal, and scored nine goals in 18 appearances against the Red Devils. The last of those was a 90th-minute winner when the Gunners came from behind to beat United 2-1 at the Emirates in London in January 2007. Henry was also in the AS Monaco team that beat United on away goals in the Champions League quarter-finals in 1997-98.Henry said of Wednesday's opponents: "At the moment, they're flying, but you never know in football. Hopefully, they will have a bad day when we play them. You know how it is in the Champions League - one bad day and you're gone.''Should Henry's recent illness restrict his involvement, there is always Samuel Eto'o - who scored both Barca's goals in the 2-2 draw against Recreativo on 12th April, his 13th and 14th League goals on only his 14th appearance this season.

Manchester United

Between them Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tévez and Wayne Rooney have scored 73 of United's 101 goals in all competitions this season, and 52 of their 73 in the Premier League. Ronaldo's goal against Roma in the quarter-final first leg was his seventh in the Champions League this season, making him the competition's top scorer. Before the Blackburn game, Ronaldo had scored in his last seven United games in all competitions. And he is also the Premier League's leading scorer this season with 28 goals. His goal against Arsenal on 13th April was his 38th of the season in all competitions and keeps him in contention to break Denis Law's club record of 46goals (1963-64). Ronaldo has also been nominated for the PFA Players' Player of the Year award, along with Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, David James, Cesc Fabregas and Adebayor. And for good measure, the United winger has also been short-listed for the Young Player of the Year award - having collected both accolades last season.


Barcelona really need victory - and a clean sheet - to take to Old Trafford. But although United have never won at Barcelona, and have the pressure of being the favorites to reach the final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, they are widely expected to have the quality to get past Barca at the moment. However, Barcelona boast attacking riches that can upset he best defence if they click, and although Ronaldinho is injured, Messi, Henry and Eto'o represent a pretty formidable trio.For United there is everything to play for, and they also have experience running through h team now, which has given them the capacity to grind out results when things are not quite going for them. And while Barca also have outstanding talent in their ranks, they are not impregnable defensively. United might just have the pace and panache to damage them at Camp Nou with a couple of away goals.

Barcelona 2-2 Manchester United

Graham Lister