Barça v Benfica: Did you know…

Mark Van Bommel, ex blaugrana, al partit del 2006 davant del Benfica / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
This will be Benfica’s third visit to the Camp Nou, where they have always lost

Benfica have not beaten a team from la Liga for two decades

The referee

The match official will be Svein Oddvar Mein of Norway, the same man who was in charge when Barça tore apart Bayer Leverkusen (7-1) last season, with five goals from Leo Messi. He has never whistled a Benfica match

Barça and Benfica meet in the last game of their Champions League group in game packed with trivia, the best of which we reveal here:

-This will be the third time that FC Barcelona has hosted Benfica. The Portuguese side has always lost at the Camp Nou

-The Lisbon based side lost 2-1 when they visited in 1991/92 and 2-0 in 2005/06

-That last visit by Benfica to the Camp Nou was on April 5, 2006, in the second leg of the UCL quarter finals. The FCB line-up included Valdés, Puyol and Iniesta

– FC Barcelona have an excellent record at home to Portuguese clubs. They have won ten and lost just once in eleven encounters

– Barça have already won the group, so they are only really playing for honour tonight. But it’s a massive match for Benfica. A win at the Camp Nou would see them through to the last sixteen in second place. A draw or a defeat, and it would all depend on what Celtic do at home to Spartak

– Benfica have not won any of their last 13 meetings with teams from the Spanish championship. They haven’t tasted success since 1982/83, when they knocked out Betis in the first round of the UEFA Cup

-The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) considered Benfica to be the world’s number one team in November after they won all three games in their league, plus two in the Champions League and one in the national cup, the ‘Taça’

-Nolito could get to tread the Camp Nou turf once again. The former Barça B man played five games for the first team. When Barça entertained Ceuta on November 10, 2010 he scored his only goal under Josep Guardiola

-Xavi Hernández has made 663 passes in the group stages, 300 more than any other player in this competition

-Valdés, Mascherano and Messi have played every minute of the Champions League so far. Xavi and Pedro have also started all five group games

-Song, Mascherano and Pedro are all one yellow card away from suspension

VIDEO: FC Barcelona prepare for Benfica clash

Piqué and Mascherano / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Tito Vilanova’s men prepare for tomorrow’s Champions League match against Benfica at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper

The team

Valdés, Pinto, Piqué, Puyol, Villa, Messi, Thiago, Dos Santos, Sergio, Montoya, Adriano, Song, Sergi Gómez, Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu, Planas, Rafinha and Tello.

Tito Vilanova led his men in a preparatory session this afternoon at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League match against Benfica. Tomorrow’s is the final match of the competition’s group stage, and while Barça have already qualified for the round of 16 as group leaders, they’ll be facing a Benfica side in dire need of all three points.

Tomorrow’s team will not feature Iniesta, Xavi, Mascherano, Pedro, Jordi Alba and Cesc, as Vilanova decided to rest them ahead of this weekend’s La Liga match against Betis. Messi, however, has been named to the team along with Barça B’s Tello, Deulofeu, Planas, Rafinha, Sergi Gómez and Sergi Roberto.

Vilanova: “Segur que la motivació serà bona”

Tito Vilanova, aquest dimarts / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
L’entrenador del Barça assegura que l’equip dóna importància al partit d’aquest dimecres davant el Benfica i que intentaran guanyar-lo: “Representem el FC Barcelona i hem de donar un bon nivell”

“Messi va descansar la setmana passada i ja sabem que ell sempre vol jugar. És un partit de Champions i li fa il·lusió ser-hi. Si ell és al camp, ens fa més forts”, apunta el tècnic blaugrana

Pel que fa a l’estat de forma actual, Tito afirma que “estem contents del moment en què estem però no ens hem de quedar aquí. Si podem millorar coses, ho hem de fer”

“Hi ha alguns jugadors que surten de lesions i d’altres que vénen del Barça B i ens interessa veure’ls com responen a l’Estadi”
“Aquest grup de jugadors continua tenint ganes de guanyar. Són les mateixes que fa cinc anys, quan els vaig veure per primera vegada”

“The team that we’ll field tomorrow will be designed to win the match,” said Tito Vilanova in this afternoon’s pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League showdown with Benfica. “This Tuesday’s training session was done at a high level of quality. It’s an important match. We represent FC Barcelona and we have to play at a high level,” added the manager, who’s aware of the economic compensation the Club will receive in the event of a Barça victory tomorrow.

“There are a couple of players coming off of injury and others that are coming up from Barça B and we’d like to see them perform in the Camp Nou. I’m sure that they’ll be motivated. Besides, they are all professionals,” said the Blaugrana manager, who was quick to praise the Portuguese side: “Benfica are fighting to qualification. They are very dangerous up to. They have important footballers that can score at any moment.”

Messi set to play

Messi was named to Barça’s squad and he could feature in the starting line-up. “He rested last week and we know that he always wants to play. It’s a Champions League match and he’s excited to play. If he’s on the pitch, it’ll make us stronger,” said Vilanova

The manager played down Messi’s assault on Müller’s record: “We have to be as natural about this as possible. Messi has the chance to beat the record, but it will be more difficult if we’re all focused on him. However, I think he’s used to the pressure.”

Satisfied with the form of the team

Vilanova is satisfied with how him men have performed so far this season, but he also showed : “We’re very pleased with the team’s current form but we can’t stay here. If we can improve certain aspects of our play, then we have to do it … Every big team struggles to find its best form at the beginning of the season. It seems as though we’ve found ours and, little by little, we’re recovering our (injured) players.”

The manager also praised his players for their winning mentality: “These players are very eager to win. They are as eager now as they were five years ago, when I saw them for the first time.” Finally, when asked about the result of the Madrid derby, the manager said “any result was good for us, I still believe that the only thing we should focus on are our games.”

Adriano: “Every game is important”

The Brazilian has explained that Barça have plenty of reasons to take the Benfica match seriously, even though they have already won the group

“This is the Champions League, and there are players coming back from injury, others that don’t get to play as much, and it’s important for the team and our image”
“It’s a tremendous joy to play for this Barça team, to learn so much from Pep and Tito and to have won so many things”

Benfica are coming on Wednesday night, although FCB have already secured qualification in first place from their UCL group. But that doesn’t mean the home side will be taking a blasé attitude to the encounter. As Adriano Correia said in his pre-match press conference, “every game is important. This is the Champions League, and there are players coming back from injury, others that don’t get to play as much, and it’s important for the team and our image … We’ll give it one hundred per cent, knowing that Benfica are fighting for qualification”.

The man who has played in every position in defence is having a terrific season so far. Asked about his versatility, he said “right now I don’t where I like playing the most. The most important thing is to play. I like being on the pitch and helping the team and the boss. It is an honour that he trusts me so much and I am just trying to improve”.

5 goals and playing well

With five goals this season, the Brazilian has been on outstanding form. “I honestly didn’t expect to score so much” he admits. “Since I first started out ten years ago, this has been my best start to a season … We defenders also like to score and contribute to the attack”.

Adriano is impressed with the way the team is performing, and also spoke about how happy he is to be at the Camp Nou: “I worked hard in Brazil and Seville to get to play for the best team in the world. It’s a tremendous joy to play for this Barça team, to learn so much from Pep and Tito and to have won so many things”.

Messi’s record

Asked whether he thinks Leo Messi will score against Benfica and thus equal Gerd Müller’s record, Adriano Correia insisted that “if he scores, so much the better. We all want him to beat a record that has stood for 40 years, and want to help to make that happen for him. But it would be best if he plays as he normally does, and doesn’t get obsessed with it … What it shows is that he’s getting better with each game, and with each season.”