Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol says that his side are going to have work hard if they want to progress from tonight’s last-16 second leg Champions League tie with Liverpool. The holders are 2-1 down from the first leg against the 2005 winners and so need to score at least twice to cancel out those away goals. Puyol is confident they can do it, but doesn’t underestimate the task: “We are going to have to play almost a perfect game to come away with the right result. I am always motivated by a situation like this.”
Liverpool are hoping the fans tonight are as inspirational as they were in 2005 when Chelsea’s players were memorably shocked at the atmosphere they faced. The Reclaim the Kop campaign have put out a call for fans to skip that last pint in the pub to get into the ground that bit earlier, to get the atmosphere building more quickly than normal. Puyol thinks his team-mates will be able to overcome the noise, saying it will be something they’ve faced elsewhere in the past: “When you are playing in front of such an inspirational crowd, it is going to give some sort of strength to the home side. However, as players we are used to playing in big games in big stadiums. We are focussed and looking forward to it.”
Pepe Reina needs to be on top form tonight to keep out the threat of Barcelona who look likely to have Reds target Samuel Eto’o playing for this leg. He was injured in the first game but is just one of the threats facing Rafa’s team. “We have a team full of dangerous forwards that can hopefully do some damage,” says Puyol, “We are all keen to win the competition for the second time and confident of putting on a good show.”
Asked what Barca need to do to overcome the five-times holders of the trophy the 28-year-old said: “First of all we have got to play in our own style. We have got to concentrate hard and must remain patient if things are not going our way. The earlier we can get a goal the better it is for us, but we cannot forget about defence as Liverpool are dangerous on the counter-attack.”
Both sides are looking to bounce back from weekend league defeats tonight. Liverpool’s injury time defeat to Manchester United may have hit confidence, but so will Barca’s 2-1 defeat against Sevilla. Barca coach Frank Rijkaard rested his side’s first leg scorer Deco and also defender Lilian Thuram in readiness for tonight’s match.