By Iain Spragg
Patrick Kluivert believes that desire could prove the crucial factor when FC Barcelona meet Juventus FC in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final in Turin.
While Juve currently hold a five-point lead at the top of Serie A after their 2-0 victory over Torino Calcio last weekend, Barcelona are languishing in mid-table obscurity in the Primera División following their 2-0 defeat against Villarreal CF and now face the prospect of finishing outside the European qualifying places.
However, the Blaugrana are a side transformed in Europe, remaining unbeaten in their 12 group games to qualify for the last eight. And Kluivert feels the team's desperation to succeed in Europe could swing the balance in their favour.
"It is no secret that it has been a disastrous season for us in Spain," the Dutch striker told uefa.com. "
For us the Champions League is our only hope of a trophy this season, while Juventus are the favourites in Serie A, and it could also be our only way back into Europe next season, so we cannot think about failure.
'It could be our year'
"It means more to us than it does to Juventus. It has been too long since we brought a trophy back to the Camp Nou and our fans deserve much more than that. We know we have left it too late in the league but we seem to have reserved our best performances for Europe this season and I think it could be our year."
Kluivert, who has scored five goals in eleven Champions League appearances this season, acknowledges that Juve will be tough to overcome in Italy but insists they are far from invincible - highlighting the Turin heavyweights' patchy progress to the quarter-finals as ample evidence they can be beaten.
"Juventus, like all Italian teams, are always strong and defensively they will be difficult to break down," Kluivert said. "But they have not been at their best in Europe this season. I feel and I think Manchester United [FC] have shown how it is possible to unlock them in their two second group stage games, which Manchester won.
Juventus have lost four times in the Champions League this season and we are unbeaten and that must give us confidence. It does not mean the result is already decided but I think it shows what is possible and what we must aim to achieve."
It is now eight years since an 18-year-old Kluivert scored the only goal of the game for AFC Ajax in the 1995 final against AC Milan and he admits he has been yearning for another winner's medal ever since. "The winning goal I scored in the final changed everything for me," he recalled. "It was an attack by Ajax. Marc Overmars gave the ball to Edgar Davids who played to Frank Rijkaard, who played it to me. I controlled it and then shot with the point of my foot. To touch it that way was the only thing I could do.
"My mum had had a dream that I was going to score. She'd told me before the match, 'You're going to score the winning goal, Pat. I know it.' And that's how it turned out. When I scored, it was as if her dream came true. It was one of the best moments of my career and I have dreamt of winning another final since that day."
Patrick Kluivert's website is at www.icons.com
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