FC Barcelona's representatives at the pre-final press conference in 2006, Carles Puyol and Víctor Valdés are hoping their reunion three years later in Rome will be a lucky omen as they gear up to meet another English team.
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That they were present at FC Barcelona's pre-match press conference, as before the 2006 UEFA Champions League final victory against Arsenal FC, owed itself more to chance than superstition but Carles Puyol and Víctor Valdés were united in hoping it would prove a lucky omen against another English club in this season's showpiece in Rome.
Their 2-1 triumph in Paris enabled Barcelona to claim a second European Champion Clubs' Cup, and their hopes of landing a third at the Stadio Olimpico rest on getting the better of a Manchester United FC side boasting their own tidy haul of honours this term. "We're here simply because it's our turn," said defender Puyol about facing the world's media. "But if we can repeat the result, that will be just fine.
'Let's be superstitious'
"We know it will be a very tough match but we have a strong team – we're good in defence, have top-quality players, and will have to work hard to win," continued Puyol, with goalkeeper Valdés concurring: "It's just happened this way, but so much the better if it's the same [result] – let's be superstitious. It's going to be a hotly contested final against one of the best teams in the world and hopefully we can beat them."
Like United, who overcame Chelsea FC in Moscow last season, Barcelona know exactly what it takes both to reach a final and, more importantly, to win it. So how does this one compare with 2006? "Personally I'm experiencing it with the same enthusiasm and happiness," continued captain Puyol, the man who lifted the trophy at the Stade de France. "It's so difficult to get here that you have to enjoy the occasion. I'm really excited about tomorrow and can't wait to get started.
"We know we have a historic opportunity. We have a great team in front of us, and respect them deeply, but we'll try to win this cup to make sure it's a really spectacular season." Puyol accepts there will be little time for rest and relaxation with another form of R&R – Rooney and Ronaldo – on the loose, but is keen to stress the role he and his fellow practitioners of the defensive arts can play: "We know perfectly well what their attacking strengths are, but they also have excellent defenders so you have to look at the whole package. Defenders can make the difference, as [goalscorer Juliano] Belletti did in Paris three years ago."
'Ready for anything'
The Barcelona back line may be shorn of wide men Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves through suspension, and Rafael Márquez due to a serious knee injury, yet Valdés remains unruffled. "We've got great substitutes who are as good as those who aren't playing – I completely trust my team-mates," said the keeper. "For us, this is the most important match of our lives. The past is the past, and we want to focus on this and win the final. I'm ready for anything."