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Barca have chance to avenge 1994 final defeat

Barcelona will wipe out one of their bitterest memories in European competition if they can knock AC Milan out of the Champions League semis.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 10:36 IST

Barcelona will wipe out one of their bitterest memories in European competition if they can knock AC Milan out of the Champions League when the teams meet in the second leg of their semi-final on Wednesday.

Johan Cruyff's so-called "dream team", which won four consecutive league titles and the club's only European Cup in 1992, were crushed 4-0 by the Italians in the 1994 final, a humiliation that still rankles with Barca supporters.

Now the side that many believe could rival the achievements of the Cruyff era has the chance to become the first team since 1956 to knock the Italian giants out of the competition at the semi-final stage.

Barca hold a 1-0 advantage after their win at the San Siro and with an unbeaten European home record that stretches back three seasons, they are in a strong position to secure their place in a fifth final -- and first since that 1994 defeat.

Midfielder Deco, who returns after missing the first leg through suspension, insisted his team would not take anything for granted at the Nou Camp against the six-times European champions.

"We could be in for an even more difficult game than when we played at their ground," he said yesterday. "We will have to be 100 percent focused if we are to go through.

"They will be going full out because they know they have to win and they will be on the attack and pressuring us all the time. We can't allow them to have as many chances as they had at the San Siro."

BARCELONA RESTED

Unlike Milan, who had to dig deep to claim a 3-1 comeback win over Messina at the weekend, Barca will be well rested for tomorrow's match after their league game in Sevilla was called off because of a waterlogged pitch.

"We had to wait a long time to see if they would play the game," said Barca coach Frank Rijkaard. "The good thing, though, is that we didn't have to use any energy."

Although the rest would have given Ronaldinho time to recover from muscle pains, the Catalans will be without Argentine forward Lionel Messi and fullback Oleguer who are injured.

Milan's victory in Sicily on Saturday carried a heavy price -- coach Carlo Ancelotti was forced to substitute three players inside the opening 28 minutes.

Brazilian Kaka and Italy defender Alessandro Nesta were substituted with injuries before midfielder Massimo Ambrosini, who replaced Kaka, also had to go off.

After the game, Cafu and striker Andriy Shevchenko received treatment and the club said it would wait until after training on Tuesday before making any decision about player fitness.

Nesta is the most serious injury worry and if he fails to make it then Dutchman Jaap Stam will likely partner Georgian Kakha Kaldze in the centre of defence.

Striker Filippo Inzaghi, who missed the first-leg with a virus, is expected to be fit to start in attack.

The win at Messina has brought back to life Milan's hopes of catching leaders Juventus in Serie A, with only three points seperating the sides.

But Ancelotti is focused on the European front.

"I believe that it will still be easier for us to win the Champions League than the 'scudetto'," he said.

"Juve are still three points ahead and they have the opportunity to stay ahead. But with Barcelona we have the possibility to win.

"The paradox is that the 0-1 result will actually help our agility and our calm approach during the second leg."

Probable teams:

Barcelona: 1-Victor Valdes; 2-Juliano Belletti, 5-Carles Puyol, 4-Rafael Marquez, 12-Giovanni van Bronckhorst or 16-Silvinho; 20-Deco, 15-Edmilson, 24-Andres Iniesta or 17-Mark van Bommel; 8-Ludovic Giuly, 10-Ronaldinho, 9-Samuel Eto'o

Milan: 1-Dida; 2-Cafu, 13-Alessandro Nesta (or 31-Jaap Stam), 4-Kakha Kaladze, 27-Serginho; 8-Gennaro Gattuso, 21-Andrea Pirlo, 20-Clarence Seedorf; 22-Kaka; 7-Andriy Shevchenko, 9-Filippo Inzaghi.

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