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Barça able to rise to occasion, says Henry

Thierry Henry was recalling memories of past Old Trafford glories last night as he prepared for his first match on English soil since his move from Arsenal last summer. Henry helped Monaco dump Manchester United out of Europe in the 1997-98 season and believes Barcelona have already shown themselves more than capable of doing the same tomorrow night.

His confidence has to be based entirely on Barcelona's European form – at the weekend they made it five consecutive games in the league without a victory in a 2-0 defeat away to Deportivo.

It was also the third consecutive match in which they had failed to score. Henry has not scored in the league for two and half months and he is not favourite to be in Frank Rijkaard's starting XI tomorrow night. Barcelona now need Champions League glory more than ever after Real Madrid all but wrapped up the La Liga title with a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao last night.

Remembering that Monaco success Henry said: "I have good memories of knockout matches at Old Trafford. I remember that we drew the first game 0-0 at home and people said that we were out.

"But we showed that we could score a goal at Old Trafford and we got a 1-1 draw and went through. It was fantastic for the club. Monaco is not one of the big teams in Europe and to get to the semi-final was incredible."

Henry knows the same result this time will also knock United out and he believes Barcelona should not be daunted by Old Trafford. He told the club's official television station, Barça TV: "It is possible. We did not suffer that night. We scored after 15 minutes and although Solskjaer equalised they had little else. They were a different side then but it was still Manchester United. That year they won the Premier. Now we can say that they have more players who are well-known outside of England. But then they had Giggs, Scholes, Beckham and Sheringham. Those players went on to win the Champions League."

Henry is convinced Barcelona can rise above their league form as they did in the first leg. He added: "We have shown that giving the maximum, we can play well and we are capable of getting the better of them. It will be different to last week. We will have more space but they could also create more danger. Here they did not play their usual game because we played so well. There were times when they wanted to play but they could not. It is not easy to come here and perform better than us. They wanted to, but they were not able to."

Against Deportivo coach Rijkaard was able to rest seven of his likely starters in tomorrow night's second leg, but Henry, who played the full 90 minutes, failed to take the chance to stake his claim for a starting berth in the disappointing 2-0 defeat.

The loss ended Barça's title hopes and meant Villarreal, who beat Real Betis 1-0, are now four points clear of them in the race to finish second and qualify automatically for the Champions League group stage.

Villarreal's win meant Real Madrid, for whom Gabriel Heinze was outstanding in the centre of their defence, must wait until next Sunday against Osasuna to confirm themselves as champions. They beat Athletic Bilbao with goals from former Barcelona striker Javier Saviola, Gonzalo Higuain and former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben

Belfast Telegraph


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