GOING away to follow your football club is always different and always special.
However, some trips are more special than others.
As Liverpool fans, we’ve been spoiled down the years, even during what we would regard as barren times.
So many supporters of other teams can only dream of the passport stamps the most dedicated of Reds can show.
This week, for those fortunate enough to be going, there will be another trip to turn those on the outside looking in a deep shade of green.
Barcelona. In the semi final of the Champions League. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
It’s been 12 years since the last trip to the Nou Camp, and what an adventure that was. This time, there is more at stake. A final – against Ajax or Spurs – in Madrid is the prize on the line. A big number six the dream.
Then, under Rafa Benítez, The Reds took to the field for a last 16 game after an explosive series of events at an Algarve training camp: Craig Bellamy swinging a golf club at John Arne Riise and Jerzy Dudek ending up in handcuffs among the highlights.
Hardly the ideal preparation.
Yet Liverpool batted on. After going to the Nou Camp in 2001 and defending for their lives to leave with a hard-earned 0-0 that prompted stylistic snobbery from Catalonia’s finest, this was different. Liverpool had a proper go. And Liverpool won.
Going to a club like Barcelona and a ground like the Nou Camp is special in itself. It’s one of those bucket-list experiences that many a football fan ticks off on a tourist trip.
But to go there as underdogs and see your team win? That’s extra special.
As we should always proudly mention, Liverpool is the only English side to do it at the Nou Camp. Twice.
Alvaro Arbeloa superbly shackled Lionel Messi in that 2007 tie, switching sides on the order of the manager and carrying out Rafa’s instructions to the letter.
Steve Finnan paid equally close attention to the brilliant Ronaldinho.
Then came the goals and then came the infamous celebration – an imaginary golf swing from Bellamy that won plenty of punters on Merseyside a few quid, as well as leaving the Nou Camp travellers grinning from ear to ear.
When we eventually filed out of the ground that night, it was clear the result was not so much to the locals’ liking.
The police were pissy. Some bars were not welcoming. Others simply put down the shutters and called it a night. In one we eventually set up camp in, a man reminded us: “We do not lose there.”
“You do now, mate.”
To be fair, he bought us all a beer. But Barcelona fans generally expect a performance, expect a win, and expect a show. In the main, they get it. But when they don’t…
At the weekend, Barca won a 10th La Liga title in 15 years. They are aiming for a treble this season.
But they aren’t the only side with pedigree.
Liverpool’s name became well ingrained in the hearts and minds of the big clubs in Europe under Benítez. And here we are again. In the final last year, in the semis this year. It won’t have gone unnoticed.
The Nou Camp should hold no fear. Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool have already been to Bayern Munich and showed a big club who is boss. Venues and reputations will not lead to performance anxiety for this side.
This side will back itself. And for all that Barca have stars, talent and match winners, so do The Reds. You can bet Liverpool wasn’t the draw they wanted and, while the thought of some Messi magic may cause the odd cold sweat at our end, you can bet our counterparts worry too about something similar from Mo Salah or Sadio Mane.
And so we enter one of the world’s iconic grounds once again. Looking to keep that proud unbeaten record there alive. Forty-two times Barca have faced English opposition at home. Only Liverpool have emerged victorious. Twice. It can’t be said enough. It’s a glorious two fingers to a giant of the game.
The travelling Kop that will stand high in the Nou Camp later this week will do its best to remind the locals of that. A flag or two inspired by the fact is a dead cert, a Scouse-Barca chat about the statistic nailed on.
Barca supporters, meanwhile, will watch and wait. Expecting the norm. Calling on the inspiration of the world’s best player and his supporting cast, two of whom we know so well.
If Liverpool upset the Barca party again, the red flag will fly that little bit higher come late Wednesday night. Another scalp, another memory and another message to the rest of Europe.
This is a club to be reckoned with. This is a club that isn’t going away.
Only one club has a chance of a Premier League-Champions League double this season.
Dare to fucking dream.
For more buildup to The Reds’ Champions League semi-final first leg at the Nou Camp, and extensive reaction on location from Barcelona, SUBSCRIBE to TAW Player…
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Belter of an article. I was there in 2001. It was boss then. I bet 2007 was even better. 2019 could be the best yet. Come on, Red men.
PS Who the f**k did shoot Phil? ;-)
Would like to see Fabinho,Keita and Jordan start. Shaq for Roberto.
I was there in 2001, boring game which we wanted! I think Heakey got the ball in their half for a few seconds and it got the bigggest of ironic cheers from their supporters. Sticks in my mind.
Was there for the return leg too with kluiverts inexplicable handball and penno.
Good times. The Houllier era was when I was late teens and could travel on my own with mates then the Rafa era I was in my twenties. Istanbul and all that. Not much to enjoy in my thirties apart from the Suárez era but I’m 41 now and look set for a great decade!!
It’s amazing but with all the league excitement I almost keep forgetting we are are in the CL semis. Mad.
When Klopp’s first full season in 2016/17 imploded in January / Feb went with my mate to the 3-1 defeat at Leicester on a cold Monday night. The storm clouds were starting to gather over Klopp’s reign in some quarters (not too many on this site) and as we woke up next morning hungover in a travelodge on Leicester ring road, the fear was we were plummeting out of the Top 4 having been top around Xmas.
I joked to my mate we have to go through nights like that and then remember it when we drink a San Miguel on Las Ramblas one day facing Barcelona in the Champions League. Seemed a long way off that morning.
Pretty much haven’t looked back since that Leicester match, reversed the nosedive and the rest is history. Would not have believed back then how much these lads and this manager could achieve and so hope they get something at end of what has been an astonishing past 2 seasons. Just gutted I won’t be on Las Ramblas! Enjoy these days. Hopefully Madrid will make up for missing this week!
“Only one club has a chance of a Premier League-Champions League double this season.
Dare to fucking dream”.
Was there in both 2001 and 2007. I loved both. In fact we should have scored at the death of the 2001 game. I loved the fact in 2001 we also wore all white kits.
I remember in 2001 going round their ground before the game and seeing their footy museum and then subsequently having it out with the staff there, as they had things honouring other clubs including Man Utd but not us. We gave them a bit of history lesson as to why they (Barca) weren’t even the club we were historically and neither was that shite from up the road from us.
The thing that gets me at the Nou Camp is where they put the away support. they split you up into small segments and you occupy the very top tiers. So far up in the gods, that even light aircraft can be seen flying below you. As for pissy Police. Yep there’s plenty of them and during the game as well. Got a crack on the head just for standing up to sing. Naturally it came from behind so I didn’t even see it coming. It hurt like hell but just made me sing louder and prouder and be somewhat in their faces.
We are going to be up against it. make no mistake they have players who can hurt us, in fact we sold them a couple of them. We have to be at our best and not be scared of this lot and make them pay for constantly unsettling our players and equally we should make Barca pay for what Real Madrid did to us in last year’s final. Yeah we can hold them equally accountable, as they have the same shithouse tactics that the other lot employed that night.
Top comment, that has me hyped up now to a new level
Just love the videos with Gibbo and Robbo scanning all the time for snipers? Or just dippers? Content cool too. Its like I’m there… I wish. App great lads. Up the Reds 2-1 tonight!