Champions League – Henry: No favourites

Barcelona striker Thierry Henry says Manchester United cannot be considered favourites when the two teams go head to head in the Champions League semi-finals later this month.

FOOTBALL 2007-2008 Barcelona - Henry - 0

Following his team’s 1-0 win over Schalke at the Nou Camp, which saw the Catalans advance to the semi-finals of the competition with a 2-0 aggregate win to set up a mouth-watering tie with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, Henry conceded that United are Europe’s form team at the moment.

“This is a game to get excited about, but we will have to play well because we will be up against a team who are playing incredibly. They are on great form,” he said.

However, the former Arsenal striker says the English champions will not go into the tie as favourites.

“People will say they are favourites but nobody can really know,” he said.

Former Arsenal skipper Henry has faced United on numerous occasions in England and says his side know what to expect from the Red Devils.

“They are a team in first place in their league and Cristiano Ronaldo is having an incredible season, so we know them pretty well. They won’t be able to surprise us,” he said.

The Frenchman denied he would be particularly motivated against one of his former club’s biggest rivals and claimed this match will be very different to any Arsenal-Manchester United match.

“There is none of that (ill-feeling). An Arsenal-Manchester United match is another thing, but this is a big game and we are going to fight to be in the final,” he said.

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard also believes there will be no favourites for the semi-final clash.

“I never talk about favourites. I am happy to play these two games, I am sure they are too. I will not talk about favourites, but they will be two great games and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

The Dutchman rejected the idea that it will be easier for his side to face an open, footballing side like United rather than more defensive-minded teams such as Schalke.

“I don’t think that is the case. We have to be prepared to play two great games against a team who are on form and we’ll see two teams who play very good football,” he said.

Teenager Giovani Dos Santos has backed Barcelona can beat United to qualify for a second Champions League final in three seasons.

“We have shown we are a great team and we can definitely win the tie,” he said.

Giovani, a late substitute against Schalke, says he is excited about playing at Old Trafford.

“It will be a fantastic experience and I hope I get to play,” he said.

Meanwhile, Barca President Joan Laporta hopes the club’s fans will put recent disappointments behind them and enjoy the team’s passage to the Champions League semi-finals.

“This is a moment to enjoy and a time for hope. It (the United tie) will be a great semi-final and one for the fans to enjoy,” he said.

Schalke coach Mirko Slomka says Barcelona have a good chance of beating Manchester United.

“The game against Manchester United will be interesting. I don’t know what will happen but Barcelona have a strong team and with (Lionel) Messi back, they are capable of winning.

Messi should return in time for the semi-final tie, while Deco could also return to face the Premier League leaders in the first leg on April 23.

Sporting Life / Eurosport