Created on 20-03-2009 at 00:00 AM
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.