Sir Bobby Robson’s eagerly-awaited return to Barcelona was put on hold by torrential storms on Tuesday, but with the rain abataing, the match is scheduled to go ahead tonight.
Although Barca have won nine out of nine of their Champions League matches this season – and will equal Milan’s record of 10 wins in a row if they win tonight – they have had a terrible start to the Spanish League season. They are currently 13 points behind leaders Real Sociedad.
Coach Louis Van Gaal and Barca president Joan Gaspart are facing growing criticism from the Catalan media following last weekend defeat by Rayo Vallecano. A poll of readersin the daily newspaper Sport suggested that 92 per cent wanted Van Gaal to quit. Van Gaal is in his second spell as Barcelona coach, having replaced Robson in 1997 when he began his first stint in charge.
Robson, despite winning the European Cup-winners Cup and Spanish Cup in one season at Camp Nou, was moved upstairs to be ‘director of signings’. Robson insists that he has nothing to prove tonight.
‘They know what they did to me,’ he said.’What they did to me was to make me the richest scout in the world when they brought Louis van Gaal in above me.
“If I had known that at the end of the season that they were going to shift me out I would have come back to Newcastle right there and then.
“It’s a dream for me (to be going back to Barcelona),” Robson added.
“When will I ever get the chance to take Newcastle to Barcelona? It might never come again. “My only regret is that I will be going back there without Alan Shearer, Craig Bellamy and Hugo Viana.’
Shearer and Bellamy are suspended, while Viana is injured. Robson is expected to field the inexperienced strikers Shola Ameobi and Tresor Lua Lua, both 21.
For Barcelona, Luis Enrique is a long-term injury absentee, while Argentine midfielder Juan Roman Riquleme is expected to play a key role in a 4-3-1-2 formation.
: Bonano – Puyol, De Boer, Reiziger, Cocu – Rochemback, Xavi, Motta – Riquelme – Saviola, Kluivert
Newcastle: Given – Griffin, O’Brien, Hughes, Bernard – Solano, Dyer, Speed, Robert – Ameobi, Lua Lua