FC København will step out at the Camp Nou wearing the mantle of UEFA Champions League Group D leaders, but the prospect of tackling FC Barcelona is likely to prove a humbling experience for the Danish club's winger Jesper Grønkjær.
Few players in the København camp boast anything like Grønkjær's European experience, yet there was a glint in his eyes as he looked forward to Wednesday's game. "This is a temple for players," said the 33-year-old, whose career has taken in spells with AFC Ajax, Chelsea FC, Club Atlético de Madrid and VfB Stuttgart.
"When we praise Barcelona it's because it's true. Barcelona know it's true too. They know how good they are and they always have been since the days of [Johan] Cruyff, and they play total football here."
Grønkjær has already tasted victory at the Camp Nou, having featured in a 2-0 Liga win for Atlético in February 2005, but his respect for the Catalan club could hardly be greater. "They have changed coaches and players but they are the same as when I faced them with Atlético," he said. "They still play the same fast football; great teams lose at this stadium."
Despite the obvious admiration, Grønkjær and FCK nonetheless intend to alert their hosts to their own abilities as they look to build on wins against FC Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos FC. "
We have a lot of respect for them but we also have a mission: We want to prove that we too have quality, although we know that if they have a good day we could get hammered."
A third consecutive clean sheet in the competition would certainly aid their cause, not to mention their chances of advancing from Group D in one of the top two spots. "We want to qualify and still be in the Champions League after the winter, so we will try to get something from the game," said Grønkjær.
The Danish champions should not bank on Josep Guardiola's men underestimating them, however, as Lionel Messi insists that the three-time winners would be prepared. "This match is dangerous because our opponents are the group leaders and haven't lost," said the Argentinian international. "We have to be alert and know exactly who we are facing.
"There are no surprises in the Champions League," he added. "The teams in the competition are there because they deserve to be there and earned their place."
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