Barca concerns resurface

By Tom Adams

Barcelona's players have voiced their concern at the state of the Stamford Bridge pitch.

Barcelona's players have voiced their concern at the state of the Stamford Bridge pitch for the second year in succession ahead of their UEFA Champions League game against Chelsea.

Los Cules triumphed in London last season en route to being crowned champions of Europe, but the pre-game build-up witnessed controversy over Chelsea's treatment of their turf as Barca accused their opponents of deliberately letting the surface deteriorate.

With under two weeks to go before Frank Rijkaard's team return to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have been putting sand on the pitch in what they describe as 'routine maintenance'.

However, Barca seemingly smell a rat, with Spanish international Xavi stating that a poor surface will affect his team's passing game and play into Jose Mourinho's hands.

"This seems very bad for us because they play direct football and Barcelona have a passing game," said Xavi in The Sun. "This will benefit them but not us.

"We won at Stamford Bridge last year on the sand but only just. It wasn't easy and it helped they were a man down.

"We prefer to have a good pitch and when they come to the Nou Camp we will water the surface, so we can play a fast passing game on the floor, the way we like."

Midfield companion Andres Iniesta is determined not to let the state of the pitch affect Barca's hopes of picking up a crucial win in London, aiming a dig at Mourinho in the process as he reflected on last season's victory for the Catalans.

"We know what Mourinho is like," said Iniesta.

"If the game turns out the same as last year then it won't bother us if he puts sand on the pitch.

"He can put whatever he wants on the pitch - it's all the same to us."