FC Barcelona need to climb a small mountain to overcome Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Champions League.
FC Barcelona need to climb a small mountain tonight to overcome Real Madrid CF in their UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg.
Three goals needed
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg at the Camp Nou, Barcelona must do what only one other semi-finalist, AFC Ajax in 1996, has achieved in the ten years of the Champions League - win by a three-goal margin away from home.
Then Ajax trailed 1-0; for Barcelona the hurdle is twice the size. To underline the size of the task facing them, Madrid have never lost a home European tie by more than two goals, nor have the Azulgrana won at the Santiago Bernabéu in two previous visits in European competition.
'Going to be difficult'
Barcelona captain Sergi deserved a prize for understatement when he said: "It's going to be difficult". However, the long-serving defender said Barça would give it their best shot. "We have to go out to win and if this means we take risks at the back then we'll have to do that," he said. "We have to score and try to unsettle them."
The absence of Rivaldo, still not recovered from a knee-ligament injury, will not help Carles Rexach's side. Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernández may be back after missing the first leg but Barcelona could also be without Luis Enrique, their main threat of goals from midfield.
Madrid captain Fernando Hierro acknowledged their absences would benefit the Merengues' chances. "In any team it's important to have players with flair and nobody can doubt that Luis Enrique is a born winner," he said. "Rivaldo's absence will also be important." Barça are also without Michael Reiziger who damaged a thigh muscle in last Tuesday's match.
The Catalans bounced back from that defeat with a 4-1 weekend win against Villarreal CF. Rexach observed after that victory, where all their goals came in 16 second-half minutes, that "we're capable of getting three goals".
'Anything could happen'
No doubt, but what Barça do need is to take their chances; last week they had ten shots on target to Madrid's five. Kluivert said: "We showed in the first match we can get through their defence, which gives us confidence, and if we can be more efficient, anything could happen," The Dutch striker also cited the fact that Barça have scored two goals or more in three of their last five visits to the Spanish capital.
Del Bosque could be without Santiago Solari (knee) who was sent on as a substitute in Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Real Sociedad only to limp off before the end - leaving Madrid down to ten men as Del Bosque had already used his three substitutes. If that league defeat dented their domestic title chances - they trail Valencia CF by four points - they could not be in a stronger position as they bid for a third Champions League final in four years.
Final place at stake
Yet despite that 2-0 lead Del Bosque was taking nothing for granted when speaking yesterday. "Our final is tomorrow," he said. Hierro was reading from the same script when he said: "It's clear to us that we must go out to win. We know what's at stake, a place in the European Cup final, and we have to go out to win, whatever happens. We want to see the same desire as against FC Bayern [München in the quarter-final]. Barcelona are a team with a lot of good players and we respect them but we're going out to beat them."
History with Madrid
Madrid's position could barely be stronger. History is also on their side: they beat Barcelona home and away in their 1960 European Cup semi-final en route to the final to Glasgow. But a Barcelona comeback, that really would be making history.