Barça throw more sand at Blues in war of words

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The Independent Football

If there is a Catalan equivalent of the phrase "do your talking on the pitch" Barcelona's current crop of players do not seem to know it. Following on from Silvinho's dismissal of Chelsea's "beach" of a pitch, Giovanni van Bronckhorst yesterday joined the verbal jousting when he delivered a contemptuous criticism of the English champions - the same day that Samuel Eto'o laughed off reports linking him with a move to the Premiership leaders.

At this rate, by the time Barça arrive at Stamford Bridge, with their buckets and spades, for Wednesday's Champions League knock-out round first-leg tie they will be out of breath.

"I have played in Scotland [with Rangers] and at Arsenal, and I was never sympathetic towards Chelsea," Van Bronckhorst said. "After what happened last year in the Champions' League my attitude toward the Blues got worse."

Last season Chelsea knocked Barcelona out at the same stage with a disputed late goal by John Terry after a thrilling match. The tie was, however, overshadowed by Jose Mourinho's first-leg criticism of Anders Frisk, which prompted the referee's retirement and brought fines from Uefa, and an unseemly scramble at the end of the second leg in which Eto'o claimed he was racially abused. Mourinho also criticised Frank Rijkaard, the Barcelona coach. He was later fined £8,900 by Uefa and given a two-match suspension while Chelsea were fined £33,000.

"For Barcelona, the game against Chelsea is very special," added Van Bronckhorst. "We all remember when we got knocked out last year and it is something that still hurts and something that we want to clear up once and for all for everybody. This year, we want to go through. At present we can address Chelsea without any worries. Perhaps we are one of the few sides in the world who can say and do this. They talk of [Didier] Drogba and [Hernan] Crespo but Barcelona are capable of assembling three or four men in attack who would absolutely guarantee scoring. I don't know if Chelsea have this.

"Between Drogba and Crespo I would choose Crespo but, at this moment, Samuel Eto'o is above both of them. He has returned from the African Cup of Nations angry for not having won with Cameroon and has sworn that Chelsea will pay the consequences." Cameroon were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Drogba's Ivory Coast on penalties, Drogba converting the winning penalty after Eto'o had become the first player in a marathon shoot-out to miss.

Van Bronckhorst, a Dutch international, added: "To play the second game at home gives us a little more leeway, but at Stamford Bridge we can't just go out and hope to play on the break. This is not our style and we don't know how to do it. I would like to lie to myself and say we will win in London, but I have the feeling that this tie will be decided at the Nou Camp."

Eto'o dismissed newspaper reports which suggested Chelsea were formulating a £30m bid for him. "It's only because the game is getting closer," said the 25-year-old. "If we advance and we play against Juventus, then they will say that coach Fabio Capello also wants me."

Both Barcelona and Chelsea lost their most recent League matches, Barcelona against Valencia, Chelsea at Middlesbrough, but each retain handsome leads in their respective domestic leagues.

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