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A Guide To Barcelona


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http://www.chelseafc.com/page/LatestNews/0...1641387,00.html

If there were two sides you might have guessed we would be drawn against at some point in this season's Champions League, chances are they might have been Liverpool and Barcelona, two of our most familiar European opponents in recent years.

We have met the Reds in each of the last five continental campaigns, and have now been matched against the Catalan giants in four of those, the only season we weren't being 2007/08. We also met in 1999/2000, our first season in the Champions League, when extra-time saw Barca progress 6-4 on aggregate.

Since then the spoils have been shared, us gaining the upper hand after an exhilarating win at Stamford Bridge in 2005 sent us through to the semi-finals, followed by the Spaniard's victory a year later.

In 2006/07 we were drawn together in the group stages, both progressing into the knockout rounds after a 2-2 draw in Spain and a 1-0 victory for us at the Bridge.

Now we are vying for a place in the Final as we look for Champions League number one and Barca hunt a third triumph to follow those in 1992 and 2006, when a Juliano Belletti winner denied Arsenal victory. Back in '92, a Ronald Koeman free-kick at Wembley was enough to beat Sampdoria.

At times this season Barca have looked unstoppable under new coach Pep Guardiola (who played in that second leg in 2000), at one stage in the season winning 19 from 20 games, taking 58 points from a possible 60.

At the weekend, they drew 2-2 at Valencia to follow up Wednesday's 4-0 win at home to Sevilla.

Between the first and second legs against us, they meet Real Madrid in La Liga action, aiming to extend their lead at the top.

In Europe, they sailed through Champions League Group C, winning four of the first five games to go through top, eliminating Lyon in the first knockout round after an entertaining 5-2 home win in which Thierry Henry (2), Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o all found the net, the same three players scoring in the 4-0 demolition of Bayern Munich in the quarter-final first leg, Messi claiming a brace.

That form has made Barcelona 7/4 favourites with Paddy Power to win Europe's top competition this year, ahead of the Blues, priced at 10/3.

The Camp Nou is one of the world's most famous stadiums and a top tourist attraction in Barcelona, its 98,772 capacity making it Europe's largest stadium. They have a squad to match, the majority of which will require very little in the way of introduction.

1. Victor Valdes

Goalkeeper

27-year-old goalkeeper who made the shirt his own during the 2003/04 season, going on to play a key role in the 2006 Champions League and La Liga double. An understudy to Iker Casillas in the Spain squad.

2. Martin Caceres

Defender

A summer signing from Recreativo, Caceres is yet to make his mark at the Camp Nou and has been a peripheral figure in his first campaign. Versatile, the 22-year-old Uruguayan can play across the backline and in defensive midfield, and is highly rated for his speed and aerial ability, while also strong in the tackle.

3. Gerard Pique

Defender

Returned to Barca in the summer after four years away with Manchester United, scoring twice in last season's Champions League group stage. His stature makes him a natural defender but he also has good technical ability and is effective from set pieces. Now 22, he has been a Barcelona fan since birth, and is an Under 17 and Under 19 European champion.

4. Rafael Marquez

Defender

30-year-old who has formed important partnerships at the heart of defence with both Puyol and Milito as well as covering in midfield. Mexico captain, Marquez previously played at Monaco and Atlas Guadalajara in his home country. Scored in the 3-1 group stage win over Sporting, heading home from a corner.

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5. Carles Puyol

Defender

One club man who made his Barca debut in 1999 under Luis Van Gaal as a right-back, since converted to one of Europe's most respected defenders. Captained the side to the 2006 Champions League, and was a vital cog in Spain's Euro 2008 success. Has played in each of the eight recent meetings with Chelsea since 2000, substituted at half-time while 3-0 down in the first.

6. Xavi

Midfielder

With Barcelona since the age of 11, 29-year-old Xavi won the Euro 2008 Player of the Tournament award, as well as featuring in the FIFPRO team of 2008, alongside Messi, Puyol and our own John Terry. Boasting a cool head and a keen eye for a pass, he is at the heartbeat of the Barca side and will need to be marshalled closely. Replaced Guardiola in the team in 1999/2000, playing the second leg against the Blues.

7. Eidur Gudjohnsen

Midfielder/Forward

Now 30, Eidur enjoyed six successful seasons at Stamford Bridge, making himself a double Premier League winner in the process, and scoring 78 goals partnering Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Hernan Crespo and Didier Drogba, before taking on a deeper role as a creative midfielder. Gudjohnsen is now in his third season with Barca since departing, and was also a Dutch league champion with PSV in 1997. Hugely popular with Chelsea fans and players alike.

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8. Andres Iniesta

Midfielder

Still just 24, Iniesta has been a regular since 2004/05 when he made 37 appearances in Frank Rijkaard's first successful La Liga campaign, stepping into the injured Xavi's shoes for much of the next season. Has gradually become more of an attacking midfielder after starting his career in a deeper role, and has also played on the right.

9. Samuel Eto'o

Forward

Regarded as one of the top strikers in world football, Cameroon international Eto'o has scored 27 in 30 league games this season. He boasts quick feet and a powerful finish. Now 28, he finished third behind our own Frank Lampard and Ronaldinho in the 2005 World Player of the Year contest. 78 league goals in the previous four seasons. Three in seven in Europe this season.

10. Lionel Messi

Forward

Arguably the world's best player on current form, Messi has been spectacular this season with 20 goals in La Liga and eight in the Champions League. Fast feet, a low centre of gravity and a surprising degree of strength make the left-footed wingman difficult to win the ball from. Worryingly he is still only 21. Runner-up in last season's World Player award.

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11. Bojan Krkic

Forward

Another prodigious talent from the club's youth academy, Bojan has found opportunities limited this season after bursting onto the scene last season, scoring 10 league goals in 31 games. His impact this season has been greater in Europe, scoring three times from seven appearances. Spanish-born, his unusual name is due to his Serbian father.

13. Jose Manuel Pinto

Goalkeeper

Signed on a permanent deal last summer having covered for the injured Albert Jorquera, making his debut in an April 2008 defeat to Deportivo La Coruna. 33, he has played just twice this season.

14. Thierry Henry

Forward

Between 1999 and 2007, the 31-year-old forward scored eight Premier League goals against us as an Arsenal player. Slow start in Spain saw him score 12 league goals in his first season, bettered already this campaign, which has also yielded seven European goals to date. Now 31, Henry is a World (1998) and European (2000) champion with France, for whom he is the record scorer of all time.

15. Seydou Keita

Midfield

29-year-old Mali international, who arrived in the summer after an impressive season with Sevilla. Physically strong, Keita has an eye for goal and is comfortable going forward from his holding midfield role. Started his career with Marseille in 1999 before gaining regular first team action with Lorient and Lens.

16. Sylvinho

Defender

Another ex-Arsenal man, the Brazilian was displaced at left-back by our own Ashley Cole during his Highbury career. Scored a memorable goal against us in September 2000, smashing home from long range to earn a 2-2 draw. Now 35, he has been a reliable squad member at the Camp Nou since his 2004 arrival from Celta Vigo.

18. Gabriel Milito

Defender

Not featured this season due to a torn ligament in his right knee. 28-year-old centre-half who played 27 league games in his debut season at Barcelona last year. An Argentine international, he is the younger brother of forward Diego.

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20. Daniel Alves

Defender

Previously linked with a move to Chelsea, the right-back signed for Barca last summer after six years with Sevilla. He will turn 26 on the evening of the second leg at Stamford Bridge. Typically Brazilian, he patrols the entire right flank, supporting attack as much as defence, and is capable of spectacular long-range shots. A Uefa Cup winner in 2006 and 2007.

21. Alex Hleb

Midfield

The third former Arsenal man at Barcelona. 28 on May 1, Hleb began his career with Champions League newcomers BATE Borisov before five seasons at Stuttgart highlighted him as a superb creative talent. Reached the Final of the Champions League with Arsene Wenger's side, alongside Henry, in 2006, losing out to Barca and Juliano Belletti. Has been Belarusian Player of the Year for every year since 2002. Injuries have hampered his first year in Catalonia, but he has returned with a number of sub appearances in recent weeks.

22. Eric Abidal

Defender

29-year-old left-back in his second season since arriving from hometown club Lyon, where he played alongside Florent Malouda and Michael Essien. Also played for Lille and Monaco, as well as being a France international who played in the World Cup Final of 2006. Recently started his first game since February.

24. Yaya Toure

Midfield

Younger brother of Arsenal's Kolo, and an international team-mate of Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba. Toure is a domineering midfielder who counts France, Greece, Ukraine and Belgium as former homes, arriving in Spain for the 2007/08 season. He is the defensive cog that allows so many others to attack. 25-years-old.

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25. Albert Jorquera

Goalkeeper

30-year-old backup goalkeeper, Jorquera has not played a league game for Barca since appearing three times in 2005/06. He has seven first team games under his belt in total, but has been with the club his entire career.

27. Pedro Rodriguez

Forward

21-year-old winger with limited first team experience, but a solid record at 'B' team level. Scored in a pre-season friendly at Hibernian.

28. Sergi Busquets

Midfield

Just 20, Busquets is the latest precocious talent to emerge at Barca. The midfielder has played 18 league games so far this campaign, with another six in the Champions League, one of which was a sub appearance in the 4-0 win over Bayern. Made his international debut against Turkey at the beginning of April.

Coach

Pep Guardiola

A Barcelona legend on the field, Guardiola took the reins last summer following Frank Rijkaard's exit, stepping up after his impressive season with the 'B' team. Yet to win anything as a coach but has impressed many with his first season. Barca have scored 92 goals in 34 La Liga games, and have a goal difference of 100. As a player, Guardiola pl\yed more than 250 league games for the Camp Nou team, also representing Brescia and Roma in Italy before playing in the Middle East until he retired in 2006.

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