Thompson prepared for Barcelona backlash

 

Phil Thompson claims Liverpool will show "no fear" when they confront a Barcelona side intent on revenge. The Anfield assistant manager knows the first game of the Champions League second phase will be entirely different to last season's meetings with the Catalan giants.

Liverpool knocked out Barcelona in the UEFA Cup semi-finals, earning criticism in Spain for their sterile tactics in the Nou Camp and then winning the second leg with a late Gary McAllister penalty after Patrick Kluivert's handball.

Since then Barcelona have spent €60 million on six new players and seem to have found the answer to their defensive problems, currently sitting in third place in La Liga.

But Thompson emphasised Liverpool's own intentions, saying: "There is no fear, have no worries about that."

Last season Liverpool were accused of "betraying football" by former Barcelona coach Llorenc Serra Ferrer for their defensive play in Spain, and the game has been hyped over there as payback time. But Thompson said: "Revenge is a horrible word but they weren't happy being beaten by us last season. But nobody is happy with losing a big European semi-final.

"I would expect there to be an extra incentive in the game because they are good and special footballers." But he added: "Our players don't need any special motivation to give everything against a team like Barcelona in front of a packed house at Anfield, where we could have sold the tickets twice over.

"These are special times. The history of this club is based on European football and to me it's just another great night and the sort of match we should be playing. But no fear is attached to any of these games from our players. We looked at the group and they will relish every game we have to play."

Barcelona have spent €18 million on 19-year-old Argentinian Javier Saviola from River Plate and €14 million on Brazilian Deiberson Geovanni from Cruzeiro. The duo have led a South American influx to the Nou Camp which also includes goalkeeper Roberto Bonano, midfielder Fabio Rochemback plus Swedish defender Patrik Andersson and French centre-back Philippe Christanval.

Their defence is looking mean and the goals are flowing - it is a much better Barcelona side than that which lost at Anfield in April.

Thompson knows it. He said: "Stopping the goals is the one aspect that they have improved, and that's got a lot to do with Andersson. They are looking a lot more solid.

"Barcelona have spent a lot of money since last season, but then they always do and they want to make sure they stay at the top, domestically and in Europe."

Barcelona striker Patrick Kluivert admitted that he will be looking for payback at Anfield but conceded that a draw would be a good result for the Catalonians.

"I really want revenge," Kluivert said. "Liverpool will be very similar to last season and not losing is the most important thing. It is important to start well, especially if you are away from home. Then we will have to win all of our games in the Nou Camp."

One thing Liverpool know is that while Barcelona have assembled a fearsome array of new talent, the Catalans fear Michael Owen and Emile Heskey.

All four of Barcelona's first-choice back line named Michael Owen recently as the best striker in Europe, and veteran Dutch defender Frank De Boer said: "Owen is world class and we fear Heskey. He created panic in our defence last season and you won't find a stronger, quicker, harder striker to play against anywhere in Europe."

LIVERPOOL (4-4-2) (probable): Dudek; Carragher, Henchoz, Hyypia, Riise; Gerrard, McAllister, Murphy, Smicer; Heskey, Owen.

BARCELONA (4-2-3-1) (probable): Bonano; Reiziger, De Boer, Andersson, Coco; Xavi, Cocu; Luis Enrique, Rivaldo, Kluivert; Saviola.

Referee: H Krug (Germany).