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Wednesday, 14 February 2007

RAFA: BRING ON BARCA

Mark Platt 14 February 2007
One week before the Reds take on Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League clash in the Nou Camp, manager Rafael Benitez talks to Liverpoolfc.tv.
Champions Leauge Draw Dec 2006


To watch our interview with Rafa at Melwood, click here>>

Liverpoolfc.tv: Rafa, the big Liverpool v Barcelona clash in the Nou Camp is drawing ever closer, how much are you looking forward to it?

Rafael Benitez: It's a difficult stadium to play in but we have confidence. We know it will be a difficult game because Barcelona is a difficult team. We know about them but we will try and I have confidence we can do a good job.

Since the draw was made in December has it been difficult diverting your players' attention away from the prospect of playing in the Nou Camp?

I have watched some of their games on the TV but I have been focused on our form in the Premiership. I said to my players that we don't think about Barcelona and focus on the Premier. Now we can look ahead to Barcelona.

Does this tie have an extra edge for you personally, given your background with Real Madrid?

No. The rivalry between Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia in Spain is really high but for me the idea is to win against a top side. It's not just because it's Barcelona and it would be the same if we were playing Valencia or Real Madrid.

Do you think Liverpool will have all the backing of the Real Madrid and Valencia fans when you play Barcelona?

I think so. We have a lot of supporters in Spain now. The rivalry is similar to Liverpool playing Everton so I think we will have a lot of supporters for this game.

Having been a rival of Barcelona in Spain what reception do you expect in the Nou Camp?

The people of Barcelona are very polite and they know their football. They are good supporters.

What's your record like against Barcelona?

I don't know exactly but with Valencia we won some games at the Nou Camp. We scored four goals once when Fabio Aurelio scored a very good goal. It's not easy but our results were good.

From the contacts you have in Spain have you been told about the atmosphere in Catalonia ahead of the match?

Everyone, including the press, is very excited about this game. They have been talking about it almost every day for the last two months.

How highly do you rate this Barcelona team?

The team is really good and when the draw was made people were saying Barcelona are the best team in the world. After two months we are a lot better and they have had some problems. They need Eto'o fit, and Messi, because they haven't been scoring a lot of goals.

Both Eto'o and Messi recently stepped up their comeback by coming off the bench to play for Barca in La Liga, this must give them a big boost...

Yes but I think they have been trying to push these players back quickly for this game.

Do you think they are still as strong as when they won the Champions League in May?

Yes they are really strong and they have good players. They are not playing at the same level but if they have Eto'o, Messi and Ronaldinho then I think they have very good players.

Do you know any of the Barcelona players personally from your time in Spain?

They have some foreign players and I know Messi. I also know Eto'o as he was in the Academy at Real Madrid when I was there, so I have good relations with them.

Liverpool go into the game as underdogs. Do you think that will benefit you?

It could do. I think that it's important for us as we won't have big pressure so that will be important for us.

Obviously the Nou Camp is one of the greatest stadiums in world football and playing there can be quite a daunting experience for some. Do you think it can also work the other way and inspire your players?

I hope so because always we want to win against the top sides in the big stadiums. It's important if you have a very good mentality and our players have experience and a good mentality.

Would you say this is one of the biggest and toughest games you have had as manager of Liverpool?

In the Premiership you can play against very difficult teams and in Europe we have played in the Champions League against Juventus, Chelsea, AC Milan, all very difficult teams. I think that Barcelona is the same level.

What would you view as a good result in the Nou Camp?

You never know but it could be good for us to score. Always for us to play the second leg at Anfield is important and we need to score if it's possible.

Liverpool have never lost at the Nou Camp and they have played three times. Are you confident that good record will continue?

I would like to keep this record.

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