History is not on FC Barcelona's side as they travel to Liverpool FC seeking to overturn a 2-1 deficit in their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie.
History is not on FC Barcelona’s side as they travel to Liverpool FC seeking to overturn a 2-1 deficit in their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie.
• Not only has no team successfully defended the European crown in the UEFA Champions League era but it is also eleven years since a side last recovered from a first-leg home defeat in the competition. Then holders AFC Ajax achieved that feat in their 1995/96 semi-final against Panathinaikos FC, bouncing back from a 1-0 reverse with a 3-0 triumph in Greece. Since then there have been 14 failed attempts at a fightback – Barcelona falling in this fashion in their 2001/02 semi-final defeat against Real Madrid CF.
• Liverpool, the 2005 winners, hold the advantage after coming from behind to secure a 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on 21 February. After going behind to Deco's 14th-minute header, Craig Bellamy nodded a 43rd-minute equaliser before John Arne Riise drove in the winning goal 16 minutes from time. Having surrendered their 13-match unbeaten home record in the competition with that loss, Barcelona must either beat Liverpool by two clear goals or score three times or more in a single-goal victory if they are to progress without recourse to penalties.
• Barcelona were 3-1 winners on their last visit to Liverpool on 20 November 2001. Patrick Kluivert, Fábio Rochemback and Marc Overmars found the net as the Blaugrana secured their only success against the English side in seven attempts.
• Liverpool's team that night included six players still at the club: Jerzy Dudek, Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypiä, John Arne Riise, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler. Xavi Hernández was in Barcelona's starting XI while Javier Saviola and current Liverpool No1 Pepe Reina were on the visitors' bench. Beside Reina there are two other Barcelona old boys in Liverpool's squad, Boudewijn Zenden and the injured Luis García.
• Liverpool prevailed in the sides' two previous two-legged contests. In the 1975/76 UEFA Cup semi-final, a goal from Bellamy's Wales manager John Toshack earned the Reds a 1-0 success in Spain before the teams drew 1-1 at Anfield. Liverpool went on to win the trophy that year and history repeated itself in 2000/01 when Gary McAllister's penalty secured a 1-0 victory at Anfield after a goalless draw in Spain.
• That 2001 UEFA Cup success saw Deportivo Alavés beaten 5-4 in Dortmund, but it was not Liverpool's only European trophy gained at a Spanish side's expense. They won the 1980/81 European Champion Clubs' Cup with a 1-0 defeat of Real Madrid CF in Paris.
• Barcelona have lost 12 and won just five of 23 visits to face English opposition. Their most recent triumph on English soil came in last season's first knockout round where they beat Chelsea FC 2-1 en route to a 3-2 aggregate victory. At the same stage in 2004/05, however, a 4-2 defeat at Chelsea ended their hopes of progress.
• Frank Rijkaard's team returned to Stamford Bridge in this season's group stage, succumbing 1-0 to a Didier Drogba goal, having drawn 1-1 and won 2-0 in their other away games at Werder Bremen and PFC Levski Sofia.
• Barcelona won the 1992 European Champion Clubs' Cup final at Wembley, winning 1-0 against Sampdoria UC.
• Liverpool have won just one and lost three of ten previous home games against Spanish opposition, failing to score in six of them. The last visitors from Spain to Anfield were Real Betis Balompié, who held Rafael Benítez's side 0-0 in last term's group stage.
• Reds manager Benítez was unbeaten in three visits to Barcelona with his previous club Valencia CF, winning twice. His record at home, however, was one victory and two defeats.
• The last team to taste victory at Anfield in the UEFA Champions League were SL Benfica, whose 2-0 success at this stage of last season's competition secured a 3-0 aggregate defeat of the then reigning champions. This season the Reds have played three and won three at home, beating Galatasaray SK (3-2), FC Girondins de Bordeaux (3-0) and PSV Eindhoven (2-0) in the group stage.
• The winning team will advance to the 9 March draw in Athens for the quarter-finals and semi-finals. The Greek capital will also stage the final on Wednesday 23 May.