Barça play it safe by flying to London two days early

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The Independent Football

Caution is rarely a factor on the pitch for Barcelona but off it the club are not prepared to leave anything to chance as they flew by private jet to Stansted last night two days ahead of schedule to avoid any potential disruption caused by the Icelandic ash cloud. They will train today and tomorrow at Arsenal in the build-up to Saturday's Champions League final.

Last year the Spanish champions were forced to travel by coach to Milan to face Internazionale in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final by earlier disruption to flights from an Icelandic volcano. They lost the game 3-1 and were unable to overturn the deficit in the second leg. The Barça coach, Pep Guardiola, is determined there should be no such complications ahead of Saturday after the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano. "We are looking to reduce the risk for the team to zero," a club spokesman said.

Barcelona beat Arsenal in the last-16 earlier this season, amid some controversy in the second leg over Robin van Persie's red card, but relations between the two clubs have remained good. A Barcelona spokesman said: "Arsenal were kind enough to let us use their facilities on Wednesday and Thursday. We contacted them as soon as we knew that we had to travel early and their response was positive. It highlights the respect between the two clubs and we are obviously grateful to them."

David Villa, meanwhile, is among a number of Barcelona's players who believe that Cristiano Ronaldo's departure to Spain has made United a better side. "Cristiano Ronaldo's departure has liberated them," said Villa. Ronaldo signed for Real Madrid for £80m in 2009, but has been unable to prevent Barça retaining the La Liga title.

Dani Alves, Barça's Brazilian full-back, claims that United have a better balance without the Portuguese. "This Manchester United team is much more unpredictable without Cristiano Ronaldo," he said. "They have formed a more balanced group and they are stronger than they were two years ago."

Andres Iniesta also believes United have improved since the two met in the Champions League final in Rome in 2009. "They have grown as a team," said the midfielder. "They are dominating in England and now they are fighting for the Champions League. They are always competitive."