Andoni Zubizarreta / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Back to London. A city that brings back so many memories. The old and the new Wembley, Koeman, Alexanko, Abidal and Iniesta. The director of football, Andoni Zubizarreta, knows what a special place this is for Barcelona. “Going back to London reminds us of some great games. There are epic and historic elements, which is nice, but what matters most is that this is a Champions League semi final. It would have been the same if we’d been playing in Lisbon”.

Zubizarreta knows all about the atmosphere that awaits them at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. “Whenever I have played at English grounds, the crowd sings and supports their team with all their might. We’ll see football in its purest state”.

Reward for hard work

The next seven days will have a huge bearing on the outcome of the season. Is that a good or bad thing? “Playing for everything in just seven days is the best thing there is. What we don’t like having to do is play meaningless games at the end of the season”, said Zubizarreta. “This is a crucial week thanks to everything we have done so well since July 18. If we get it right now, then the crucial week will be that of the Champions League Final. We’ve built this up in small steps, ever since we lost to United in Miami during the preseason”.

Chelsea ready

But for Chelsea, this semi final is also a reward for a good season’s work. “They have done as well as us to get here. Teams like Chelsea are always ready to compete and to play under huge pressure. I expect to see them at their very best.” Asked what he admires most about the Premiership outfit, Zubi singled out “their fast and dynamic midfield”.

No favourites

He also refused to acknowledge that Barça are favourites to qualify for the final in Munich. “It is no use at all to be labelled favourites in a Champions League semi final. I expect Chelsea to be highly motivated to qualify. They are competitive enough to be able to overcome difficult situations. They are a solid team, they have pace, they are strong one on one, and as whole they have plenty of competitive capacity”.

Remembering 2009

Naturally, Andoni Zubizarreta was asked what he recalls of Iniesta’s famous last-minute winner at the same venue in 2009, which he attended as a match summariser. “I watched the game from a commentary box at Stamford Bridge and I remember that it was very small. After the goal, it was hard to get out of there”. But that game came under very different circumstances to this week’s rematch. “We were in a strong position in the league at the time, as we were in the cup. The season didn’t depend on the Champions League, which was the big prize that year. We wanted to believe that Barça wasn’t cursed like we thought back then, and that we were also able to win a game in the last minute”.

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