Barcelona – A Matter Of Confidence And Discipline

A few hours after you read this blog we’ll take the field against FC Barcelona. The Catalan giants come to the Grove with a formidable reputation. We all saw them wipe the floor with Manchester United in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome last May. They’re the reigning European and World Club Champions.
Yet they’re not invincible. They’re far from the best in the world defensively. They are however a VERY good side. They show a lot of tactical discipline when they’re not in possession. They don’t tend to make as many soppy errors defensively as we do. They are beatable though – IF we’re at our best. Yes, they have some very special players and an excellent manager. If we go out on the park metaphorically worshipping at their feet we’ll be done for. Yes, give them respect. Respect doesn’t mean standing back and admiring though.
I was in the Nou Camp in 1998 the last time we played them (other than in the 2006 final in Paris). They should have been over the hills and far away at half time. Famously Arsčne Wenger spent half time letting the players relax for the first part of the break. Then he went around the room quietly telling the players to get a metre closer to them all over the park. Tony Adams then issued the last rallying cry. Anybody who didn’t think we could get a result shouldn’t bother following him out of the dressing room for the second half. The double act worked. We were a different team in the second half, getting a well-earned draw courtesy of an excellent goal from Nwankwo Kanu, despite having Gilles Grimandi sent off for employing his elbow.
There was also entertainment off the field with one of our substitutes Davor Šuker provoking a frenzy of insults from the home fans as he warmed up. Being a former Real Madrid player made him about as popular as a rat sandwich in the Nou Camp of course. Being the sort of character he was, he absolutely revelled in the attention.
Unfortunately they belted us at Wembley in the home group game. Still, the same level of belief and tactical awareness and discipline that we showed that night in Barcelona is what we need tonight. In the stands, it falls to us to create the kind of completely unhinged atmosphere that makes it difficult for visitors to settle and play their game.
If you’re like me, you’re still a bit down after the disappointment of last Saturday. We all have to banish those thoughts though. We need to be positive, passionate but level-headed tonight.

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