Barca turn attention to Europe

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MADRID (AFP) — Barcelona, with a first domestic double since 1998 secured, can complete the most successful season in their 110-year history with victory over Manchester United in the Champions League final on May 27.
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No Spanish side has ever achieved this treble, but coach Pep Guardiola has the chance to do it in his debut season although defeating holders, and English champions, United is a tall order.

"The league is the most important title," insisted Guardiola. "It is more important than being champions of Europe because it is the prize for the most consistent team.

"In Europe, you can have a bad ten minutes and it is over for you. You just have to look at our game against Chelsea when Andres Iniesta rescued us in the last minute."

Guardiola won the European Cup as a player in 1992, but has problems ahead of the final with suspensions and injuries to key players.

Thierry Henry, back to his best this season, is currently out with knee ligament trouble, but the French forward is optimistic of making the Rome final.

"I hope no-one rules me out for Rome," said Henry. "I am working to the maximum to give myself a chance of playing. I am getting better with each day and am optimistic.

"For me it would be a dream to play in Rome after the final defeat to Barcelona when I was at Arsenal."

Henry was part of the Gunners side that lost 2-1 to Barcelona in the 2006 final and the Champions League is the one medal missing from his collection.

The semi-final hero Andres Iniesta, who scored a dramatic winner against Chelsea, is also sidelined with a thigh injury but is desperate to make the final.

"I will be in Rome. It’s a small tear. It’s not so serious, I suppose it’s caused by stress linked to the end of the season," explained Iniesta.

"The desire I have to play in the final of the Champions League will help me a lot in recovering quickly."

Guardiola also has problems at the back with right back Dani Alves and left back Eric Abidal suspended while centre-back Rafael Marquez is out for the season.

Guardiola has to reshuffle either switching Carles Puyol to right back and bringing defensive midfielder Yaya Toure in at centre-half alongside Gerard Pique or gambling on the inexperienced Uruguayan Martin Caceres.

At left back veteran Brazilian Sylvinho, 35, could replace Abidal or the versatile Puyol could switch sides.

Barca have only won the European Cup twice and if they can beat United to win an historic treble they will go down in history.

"Footbally speaking, this is one of the best seasons in the history of Barcelona when you consider the way we played and the titles won," said president Joan Laporta.

"It could be the best season ever if we win the Champions League too."

 

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