Barcelona attack at full strength vs Man United
Barcelona's formidable attack will be at its best with Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta likely to return for the Champions League final against Manchester United. Henry and Iniesta were traveling with the team to Rome on Tuesday.sports Updated: May 26, 2009 10:31 IST
Barcelona's formidable attack will be at its best with Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta likely to return for the Champions League final against Manchester United. Henry and Iniesta were traveling with the team to Rome on Tuesday, a day after taking part in their first full training session since picking up separate leg injuries earlier this month.
The puzzle is coming together for the Spanish champions in time for Wednesday's match between two of the world's best.
"They are two basic footballing pieces in our scheme," Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. "We know they're going to play, that they'll be 100 per cent and to have them is a privilege because with them, we're better."
Both players have been key to the offensive juggernaut that has scored 151 goals to collect two trophies this season. A third European Cup would see it become only the fifth team to win the treble.
Iniesta's injury-time goal against a staunch Chelsea side earned the Catalans their sixth trip to the final. The Spain midfielder, recovering from a thigh injury, abandoned his usual reserved nature when it came to deciphering the final.
"United are the defending champions, one of the best, but they don't scare me. I have the same respect for them as they have for us," Iniesta said. "It's a chance to go down in history. I'd accept winning on penalties."
Based on their training methods, that's something Barcelona is not exactly ready for.
"We haven't practiced them," Xavi said. "I think to do that is ridiculous because you can't emulate the tension of a game in a training session."
Henry has combined with Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o to net a league record 71 goals by a trio.
But Iniesta provides an integral midfield piece to rookie coach Josep Guardiola's philosophy _ attacking, possession football born out of midfielders Xavi and Iniesta.
The two players are straight out of the mold of Guardiola, a former midfielder who orchestrated Barcelona to 10 major titles from that role, including in the Champions League in 1992. "This is special for us because we played the best football," Xavi said after the club secured its 19th league title. "I have never seen (a team) play at this level, I have never played in a better team. We have individuals but, above all, we've won as a team. I'm proud."
But the absence of several defenders has left Barcelona's defense exposed against a team that knocked it out at the semifinal stage last year.
With full backs Daniel Alves and Eric Abidal suspended and center back Rafael Marquez injured, midfielder Yaya Toure will likely partner former United player Gerard Pique in the middle as he did against Chelsea and Athletic Bilbao in the cup final. Captain Carles Puyol and 35-year-old Silvinho are likely to fill in on the wings.
With forwards Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov to contend with, goalkeeper Victor Valdes may be called upon to make big saves in pressure moments again. "What I must value is how Rooney, Tevez, (Paul) Scholes, etc work," Iniesta said. "Rooney played left back against us. To win a final against United you can't make any mistakes."