FC Barcelona must gamble at Liverpool

It looks like the brilliant strikeforce that helped FC Barcelona win the Champions League last season must keep it alive this week.

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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It looks like the brilliant strikeforce that helped FC Barcelona win the Champions League last season must keep it alive this week. Although striker Samuel Eto'o is nowhere near full-match sharpness after five months out through a knee injury, he looks set to team up with Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi for an attack-minded Barca needing to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit at Liverpool. Without giving his lineup or tactics away, coach Frank Rijkaard knows he has to gamble after losing the first leg at home. "The lesson we need to learn for Anfield is that we can't relax or stop being forceful. In other words, we have to fight like never before," Rijkaard said. "There's no time to think about it too much. We know what's waiting for us at Liverpool." Of the 16 teams trying to make it to the quarterfinals, defending champion Barcelona is in the worst position after its home defeat. Even a 1-0 victory isn't enough on Tuesday. A glance at the first-leg results suggests Liverpool and Manchester United have a great chance to reach the last eight having won their away legs. United won 1-0 at Lille thanks to a quickly taken free kick by Ryan Giggs that the French club is still complaining about. Real Madrid goes to Bayern Munich leading 3-2, PSV Eindhoven visits Arsenal 1-0 ahead, Serie A leader Inter Milan goes into its game at Valencia tied 2-2, and AC Milan is 0-0 at home to Celtic. Lyon is 0-0 at home to AS Roma, and Chelsea has home advantage against FC Porto with the teams level at 1-1. That means any of the 16 are capable of reaching the quarterfinals but Barcelona has a lot to do at Anfield. Losing weekend Both teams come off frustrating losses on Saturday. Barcelona surrendered top spot in the Spanish league to Sevilla by losing 2-1 to its rival having led 1-0 against 10 men. Rijkaard's team finished the game with nine after the ejections of Ludovic Giuly and Gianluca Zambrotta, and had a dejected look afterward. The same applied to Liverpool at home to Manchester United. Rafa Benitez's team missed three good chances in a game it controlled before the visitor snatched a 1-0 victory with an injury-time winner by John O'Shea. Surprisingly, Liverpool can afford to lose 1-0 again on Tuesday and reach the last eight on away goals. Dirk Kuyt is convinced, however, that if Liverpool produces the same performance as it did against United, it will beat the Spanish team again. "To lose 1-0 like that, right at the end, is a tough blow to take," the Dutch striker said. "But we will bounce back for the Champions League. "If we show the level of skill and effort we did against Manchester United, I have no doubt that we will win against Barcelona and go into the quarterfinals." Injuries take a toll Elsewhere, the injuries to leading players are mounting. Despite its slender lead, nine-time European champion Real Madrid won't have former England captain David Beckham in Munich on Wednesday after he injured his knee trying to cross the ball in Sunday's 1-1 draw with neighbor Getafe. At least it could have Raul Gonzalez back after injury. Arsenal is expected to be without Thierry Henry as it chases a victory at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday while PSV will be without the experienced Patrick Kluivert and Michael Reiziger. Manchester United is waiting for the results of a scan on the leg injury that forced Wayne Rooney to limp out of the victory over Liverpool. Henrik Larsson, who played for Barcelona in last season's final triumph over Arsenal, is set to play his final Champions League game for the Red Devils. Chelsea will be without England captain John Terry who was kicked in the face during the 2-1 League Cup final victory over Arsenal a week ago and is still recovering. Inter Milan hopes that striker Adriano and midfielder Esteban Cambiasso recover from leg injuries for Tuesday's game at Valencia after they were left out of Saturday's 2-1 victory over Livorno, which kept Roberto Mancini's team 16 points clear atop Serie A. Some big names are back in action after being given the weekend off. AC Milan rested captain Paolo Maldini for Saturday's 3-1 victory over Chievo but should start in the Rossoneri's defense on Wednesday against Celtic, which has a runaway 19-point lead in the Scottish title race. Lyon welcomes back Sylvain Wiltord, who was suspended for the first leg in Rome and, with a 16-point lead at the top of the French championship, coach Gerard Houllier rested Juninho for Saturday's match against Saint-Etienne, which his team won 3-1 even without the Brazilian playmaker.