Robson ready for the `Match of the Century'

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More than a thousand fans swamped Barcelona's players as they arrived at Madrid airport yesterday on the eve of what Spanish media are calling their "Match of the Century" against Real Madrid.

Police held back the excited Barcelona fans who tried to touch players as they boarded a coach for their hotel in the city.

Bobby Robson, the Barcelona coach, predicted the match will be Europe's top game of the season and a battle for ball control between similar-style, aggressive teams. The former England manager added that the match pitting first against second will be "not even comparable with an Internazionale- Milan match''.

Robson compared Saturday's experience with coaching England in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against Germany in Italy and in the 1986 quarter- finals against Argentina in Mexico.

The 133rd meeting of Spain's two traditional powerhouses comes at a time both sides consider themselves at their strongest in several years.

Real Madrid and Barcelona spent almost pounds 45m between them during the off- season signing foreign stars. Barcelona boasts the Brazilian strikers Ronaldo and Giovanni while Real get their firepower from their Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, the Croat Davor Suker and Yugoslavia's Pedrag Mijatovic.