Barça look to Rome and chance to make history

Catalans hail success of 'football over force' as hopes turn to treble triumph
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The Independent Online

As Chelsea were last night tallying up Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo's mistakes and preparing a defence for Didier Drogba, Barcelona were left contemplating the part they will play in what could turn out to be the mother and father of all European Cup finals.

"It's the final everybody wanted," said Lionel Messi, who will have the chance to improve on an inconspicuous semi-final showing against the "other" best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. "At this moment in time we are the best two teams in the world. In both legs it was the same story – us trying to play football and Chelsea parked in their half. They are a very hard team to break down but we came through it."

Those sentiments were echoed by Wednesday night's goalscorer Andres Iniesta, midfielder Xavi Hernandez and full-back Dani Alves. The Brazilian will never forget his 26th birthday – victorious in a Champions League semi-final but booked and out of the final. He said: "It was a victory for football over force. Our aim was to beat them with our quality and we never gave up on that."

Xavi added: "We deserved to go through. To play the way we did with 10 men against the team that has been our toughest rival over the last few years made us the worthy winners. Even when we went down to 10 men we still played in their half."

Iniesta said of his goal: "I hit it with all my soul. There was only one place that it was ever going to end up. Petr Cech is a very big keeper and he almost got to it but it carried the force of all the people who were behind us willing us to win."

Not only will 27 May pit Barcelona's attacking prowess against Ronaldo, Rooney and Co, it will also put Gerard Pique on the same stage as the two men Sir Alex Ferguson was convinced he would never displace from the Manchester United first team: Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. "We are going to win the treble [European Cup, La Liga and Copa del Rey]" said the former United reserve. "We have a great opportunity now to make history and we have to take it."

Pique has gone from stolen satellite dishes to cup finals in the space of 12 months. Only this week the man Barça fans have dubbed "Kaiser Piquenbauer" has been recalling a difficult spell at Old Trafford where being left out of the side and having his satellite dish stolen were both frequent occurrences.

"I never earned enough at United to keep buying all those satellite dishes," he remembered. "Every week they were robbing them. It was hard for me at times at United but there are no regrets – they made me grow up a lot."

It seems his colourful Manchester experience also prepared him for the test of Drogba and Nicolas Anelka that he passed with flying colours over the two legs. He said: "I learnt to defend without the ball when I was at United. I learnt that it was not enough to be the tallest, you have to know how to use your physique."

With Alves' suspension meaning Carles Puyol will have to play at right-back, Yaya Touré will once again be Pique's partner in the centre of defence against United. The big Ivory Coast midfielder spared a thought for his international team-mate, Drogba. "He made it very difficult for me," he said. "It is six or seven years since I have played in the centre of defence. I will call him to console him."

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