Barcelona stand in the way of an all-English Champions League football final next month when they take on Manchester United in the semi-finals Wednesday.
HAMBURG: Barcelona stand in the way of an all-English Champions League football final next month when they take on Manchester United in the semi-finals Wednesday.
Either Liverpool or Chelsea will be in Moscow May 21, with the Reds - winners in 2005 - seeking a third semi-final victory over the London club and third appearance in a final in four years.
United face a crucial week, with a key Premier League encounter against Chelsea Saturday sandwiched between the two semi-final ties against the Spanish giants.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side travel for the first leg in Barcelona with confidence high, as they aim to reach their first Champions League final since their victory against Bayern Munich in 1999.
Barca, meanwhile, hope to make amends for their fading Spanish league campaign - where they are in third place, 11 points behind Real Madrid with five matches remaining - by reaching a sixth final and repeating their 2006 Champions League triumph.
The form suggests United will start as favourites, but Barca's star players are geared up to proving the critics wrong after admitting they have not lived up to the pre-season hype.
"With all the players we have, we draw or lose some games without understanding why. There is no explanation," Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o told Spanish media after a disappointing 0-0 draw with Espanyol at Camp Nou Saturday.
"In the Champions League, though, we feel well. We're just three games away from being able to lift the trophy with the big ears. It's the game of the season for us. United are favourites, but we must prove we're better than them. We will not be lacking desire or character."
Thierry Henry predicted the teams' attacking style would guarantee entertainment but the tie would be tight.
"I think they will be two good games of football, though, because they have the same kind of approach to the game that we have," he said.
"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."
Lionel Messi could be back to boost Barcelona, with the Argentina striker saying he was now ready to play from the start. Messi played the second half of the 0-0 draw with Espanyol after recently returning from a five-week lay-off with a thigh injury.
"I am ready for United," Messi told the Spanish media.
"I am well. The fans are waiting for me to show what I can do on Wednesday. I am calm and I've so much desire to be at my best and be able to offer my team the things I can bring on the pitch."
Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez believes Barcelona will be an even bigger threat if his Argentinian compatriot plays.
"Barcelona are one team with Messi but completely different without him. He is from another planet," he said.
"He is very quick out of the blocks, he is a fantastic player. He is the main point of reference and the key man in the whole Barca team."
However, Tevez added: "While he is a big danger for us, it is better he plays because we will have beaten the real Barcelona or gone out to the real team. If we beat them with Messi they will have no excuses."
Chelsea meanwhile received a major boost ahead of Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first leg at Anfield when it was confirmed that Frank Lampard will be back to play.
The England midfielder missed last week's 1-1 draw against Wigan and 1-0 win over Everton to be with his mother, who has been seriously ill with pneumonia.
Chelsea should also have striker Didier Drogba back after having fluid drained from his knee, while midfielder Michael Ballack is also expected to be available after recovering from a hamstring strain.
Midfielder Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, is a doubt for Liverpool after missing Saturday's 2-0 win over Fulham with a twisted neck.