Volcanic ash cloud forces Barcelona to fly to London two days early

25 May 2011 08:02
ShareBarcelona will be helped by Arsenal in their preparations for Saturday's Champions League final.

The Catalonian side landed at Stansted Airport last night to avoid the ash cloud descending from Iceland and asked Arsenal if they could use their training ground at London Colney.

The Gunners agreed and a Barcelona spokesman said: 'Arsenal were kind enough to let us use their facilitieson Wednesday and Thursday.

They're coming: Lionel Messi (left) and Xavi (right) start their journey to England for the Champions League final

Do us proud: Barcelona fans wave off their heroes as they depart by coach from outside the Nou Camp

'We contacted them as soon as we knewthat 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.'

The premature arrival in England removed one doubt about Barca's presence at Wembley.

That leaves the other one: who will partner Gerard Pique in central defence?

All aboard: Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola contemplates a big week ahead of him

The answer appears to be Javier Mascherano. The man whose season began playing in midfield for Liverpool- Mascherano appeared against Arsenal at Anfield last August - is set to end with him facing Manchester United at Wembley as a centre half.

'It is not my position, obviously,' said Mascherano, 'but when you don't play in your position you try and adapt and show other qualities.

Up in smoke: Barcelona will fly to London earlier than scheduled because of the ash cloud

Stranded: Passengers sleep on the floor at Edinburgh Airport after their flights were cancelled late last night

'I know that I am not tall and goingto win balls in the air. I am small but when I have played there I havetried to give my best and give everything for the team. We are lucky that the key players for us like Eric Abidal and Carles Puyol are back, so I don't know if I am going to play or not.'

It would be a risk for Barca manager Pep Guardiola to play Abidal at left back after the cancer trauma the Frenchman has been through so recently, which means that Puyol may revert to left back to mark Antonio Valencia or Nani.

Up for the battle: Barcelona will face Man United in a repeat of the 2009 Champions League final

Looking over his shoulder: Pep's Barcelona have been forced to alter their travel arrangements

Mascherano would then move back alongside Pique, which the Argentine did in both legs of the semi-final against Real Madrid.

Mascherano has played 38 times for Barcelona this season, even if around half were from the bench. As the season has progressed, the feeling locally is that so has Mascherano, who cost Barca ?18.5m.

Stars of the show: Messi struggles with his bib, as Iniesta holds off the attentions of Busquets in training

'Personally I am really happy,' he said. 'In my first season I have won the league, we got to the final of the Copa del Rey and now the final of the Champions League.

'Every moment I have tried to enjoy and be with my team-mates. Hopefully it will be time to celebrate after the final of the Champions League - I played with Liverpool in 2007 and Iknow what it is like to lose. I still have that memory. It was a bad game and a very sad day for me.'

The 26-year-old tried to stay away from the subject of Liverpool versus United. He was sent off at Anfield against Sir Alex Ferguson's side in October 2009 and at Old Trafford in March 2008 in his first season on Merseyside. 'I forgot about that,' he said, straight-faced.

They're gloving it: Barca appeared in relaxed mood ahead of Saturday's mouth-watering showdown

But Mascherano then conceded: 'When you have played for Liverpool for 3? years and your rival is Manchester United, you feel it is a little bit different.'

He finished by praising Ferguson and talking up United. There is clearly a fear of complacency in Catalonia.

'I know a little bit about Ferguson and United and I know that whenever one player has left United, Ferguson has managed to adapt the team and recover the team.

'He is very clever at that and that is why he has been in charge for 25 years. We don't have any advantage. They have brought through Chicharito, Valencia and Nani is much better than two years ago. We will make a mistake if we think that Manchester United is a weak team.'

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 Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Pep Guardiola, Antonio Valencia, Nani, Xavi, Lionel Messi Places: Barcelona, Liverpool, London, United Kingdom

Source: Daily_Mail