By Brian Brownstein
Milan Baroš is relishing the prospect of playing against Juventus FC in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Baroš will turn out for tonight Liverpool FC in what will be the Czech striker's first ever game for the Anfield club against a Serie A side.
The 23-year-old marksman claims he would have been happy to take on any of the three Italian teams left in Europe's premier competition but, for one reason in particular, he is especially delighted to have drawn the Turin giants. "I wanted us to be put against an Italian side," he told uefa.com.
"Some people may be surprised to hear that but at this stage you can't really choose your opponents," he added. "The differences between all the sides are minimal [in terms of the quality of their squads] but I have never played against a Serie A side for Liverpool."
A familiar face on the Juventus team has given Baroš an extra motivation. "I would have been delighted with AC Milan or [FC] Internazionale [Milano] but the fact that I will play against Pavel Nedved gives me greater motivation," he added. "I am looking forward to both matches very much."
Nedved and Baroš have been good friends for three years, ever since the Liverpool forward broke into the Czech Republic side. Baroš has seen at first hand the damage Nedved can do, and identifies the former European Footballer of the Year as the man the Merseyside team really have to watch.
"I spoke to Pavel a few hours after the draw and I am sure we will wind each other up before the match," he said. "I have a good relationship with him and I know what a key player he is for them. It makes a great difference to their performances if Nedved is on the pitch. Without Pavel, you can see a different Juventus. He gives them impetus and more strength."
With Nedved in Juventus' ranks, Baroš is fully aware of the tough task facing Liverpool. However, the Bianconeri's strength does not lie solely in attack. The side from northern Italy have conceded only two goals in eight games during this season's campaign, and the Czech striker acknowledges it is going to be extremely difficult for the English side to breach the competition's meanest defence. "
Juventus are favourites and it will be very difficult to score," Baroš said. "They are a typical Italian team with a perfect defence and they have often won games 1-0 this season."
However, Baroš is not deterred by the underdog tag hanging around Liverpool's necks. The four-time European champions have shown good form in the competition this season, and he is confident he can breach Juventus' stubborn back line, even without the cup-tied Fernando Morientes.
The striker said: "We have shown good performances this season in the Champions League and there is no reason to be afraid of the strength of our opponents. It is a pity Fernando Morientes won't play because he is a very good striker, but I scored two goals for the Czech Republic last week - my first international goals since [UEFA] EURO 2004™ - and every time you score, as a striker, your confidence improves, so I think we do have a chance."
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