Tuesday 23 January 2018

Barca take early flight to London as ash cloud looms

Lionel Messi boards the team bus as Barcelona set off early for London
Lionel Messi boards the team bus as Barcelona set off early for London

Robin Scott-Elliot

Caution is rarely a factor on the pitch for Barcelona, but off it the club are not prepared to leave anything to chance as they flew by private jet to Stansted last night two days ahead of schedule to avoid any potential disruption from the Icelandic ash cloud.

They will train today and tomorrow at Arsenal in the build-up to Saturday's Champions League final.

Last year the Spanish champions were forced to travel by coach to Milan to face Internazionale in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final by earlier disruption to flights from an Icelandic volcano. They lost the game 3-1 and were unable to overturn the deficit in the second leg. The Barca coach, Pep Guardiola, is determined there should be no such complications ahead of Saturday after the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano.

Barcelona beat Arsenal in the last-16 earlier this season, amid some controversy in the second leg over Robin van Persie's red card, but relations between the two clubs have remained good.

A Barcelona spokesman said: "Arsenal were kind enough to let us use their facilities on Wednesday and Thursday. We contacted them as soon as we knew that we had to travel early and their response was positive. It highlights the respect between the two clubs and we are obviously grateful to them."

David Villa, meanwhile, is among a number of Barcelona's players who believe that Cristiano Ronaldo's departure to Spain has made United a better side. "Ronaldo's departure has liberated them," said Villa. Ronaldo signed for Real Madrid for £80m in 2009, but has been unable to prevent Barca retaining the La Liga title.

Dani Alves, Barca's Brazilian full-back, claims that United have a better balance without the Portuguese. "This United team is much more unpredictable without Ronaldo," he said. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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