Celtic draw glamour tie with Barcelona
Friday 05 March 2004
Those who questioned the point of the Uefa Cup had their answer yesterday. Celtic v Barcelona, Thursday 11 March, Parkhead, Glasgow, accompanied by the acme of understatement from Martin O'Neill: "I don't think we will have any problems selling the game."
An encounter between two clubs with perhaps the widest fan bases in world football in the fourth round of the Uefa Cup gives the competition a new edge. Gone, however valiantly they fought, are the Lokerens, the Valerengas and the Teplices. Between them, the remaining 16 clubs have appeared in 28 European Cup finals.
Newcastle United's record is more modest: a Fairs Cup 35 years ago which remains their last piece of silverware. The manner in which they stumbled to victory against Valerenga, a team fortunate to have escaped relegation from the Norwegian First Division, hardly suggested they would add to it.
The 3-1 victory at St James' Park on Wednesday night did not just paint a flattering portrait of the tie, it was a wholesale facelift. To their credit, neither of the Geordie nation's two directors of football, Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer, attempted to disguise the problems. The Newcastle manager remarked that in the first half against Valerenga his side had "been playing to go out of the competition". His captain was just as forthright.
"There is no lack of effort or work-rate or determination or courage - we are just not playing great football," Shearer said. "It is the big boys that are in the competition now. Without a doubt we are aware we have to step up a gear. Our aim has to be to win the competition. We have to try to take a leaf out of Celtic's book. They got to the final last year, so why can't we?"
There are many answers to that point but in terms of the draw, Newcastle's path to the semi-finals is less steep than either Celtic's or Liverpool's. Real Mallorca, whom they play in the fourth round, are fourth from bottom of La Liga, although they have won each of their away fixtures in the Uefa Cup thus far. Should they win over two legs, then they will meet either Auxerre or Robson's former club PSV Eindhoven in the quarter-finals. Should Celtic defeat Barcelona, they will face either Villareal or Roma.
Since the draw has been made all the way to the final in Gothenburg, there could, theoretically, be a Liverpool v Newcastle semi-final, although accommodation and coaches should not be booked just yet. Liverpool's reward for a pleasingly trouble-free victory in Sofia is Marseilles, whose goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez, will be guaranteed a stinging reception at Anfield.
Like Shearer, the Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia expressed his conviction that his team could and should do better, especially since they are due to encounter either Internazionale or Benfica in the quarter-finals. "The boss [Gérard Houllier] has taken an awful lot of unfair stick because of the way the players have performed but what has happened on the pitch is our responsibility, not his."
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga