Bojan: Barcelona are favourites because of their prestige, squad and form
Barcelona and Roma two of the clubs where Bojan Krkic has played during his career, first starting at La Masia and debuting at the Camp Nou, before departing to the Italian club, where he spent two years in the Roma kit.
On Wednesday, both teams face each other in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the forward has analysed the encounter.
Do you dare to give a prediction?
“Barcelona are very superior. But it is not because the opponents are Roma, but because of their current state of form. They have a higher potential than their rival. Barcelona are favourites for their prestige, team, players and their current moment of form. And also because for me they are a clear candidate to win the Champions League.”
You know Roma well, how will they prepare for the duel?
“Their goal is to take the tie to Rome by getting a good result in the first leg. They will try to score some goals. They have fast players up front and others with experience. They will try to avoid at all costs losing the tie in the first game. I do not think it will be a clash of many goals. For Barcelona, it will not be easy to score them.”
Do you expect a defensive performance?
“I don’t think so. I do not predict a defensive performance, rather a difficult team. The Roman spirit and their mentality will lead them to give their all. If Barcelona do not close the tie, that spirit will grow. The Romans are fighters and very passionate. Roma’s main objective will be to score at the Camp Nou and for Barcelona to not find a goal. If the Catalans win the first game and keep a clean sheet, it will be complicated for Roma because it is very difficult for Barcelona not to score there. The key, therefore, is for Roma not to score at the Camp Nou. If there are options for Roma in the second leg, this team at their own stadium and with their own fans are very powerful. They have been growing in the recent seasons and reaching the Champions League quarter-finals has not happened for years.”
What does Eusebio Di Francesco contribute as a coach?
“They are not characterised by having a proper Italian style of football, which is why I told you that I do not see a defensive performance at the Camp Nou. It is also true that Barcelona condition you a lot with their game. There are teams that are accustomed to playing open and against Barcelona, while others have no other option than to be more defensive. And even more so in a Champions League tie. I’ve seen Roma this year and they are a team with very high-level and creative players. The mentality of the coach is to try to make his team play attractive football.”
Even though he is no longer in the squad, does the figure of Francesco Totti still influence the team?
“For players to have Totti close is a privilege. With his new position I do not know if he goes down to the dressing room, but he goes on trips and goes to their training. This alone is already a motivation for Roma players. When I was there, knowing that Totti was on that team gave you a plus. Belonging to the team he was at brought an extra motivation. We know Roma because it is a big club, but many identify it with Totti because there he made his career with incredible achievements and merits. He gained Europe’s respect for Roma, hence his great importance as a player and person, although now he is in another position.”
Is Daniele De Rossi somehow the extension of Totti?
“Daniele has another profile and cannot be compared. He is the captain and a Roman who has grown up in this club with a great fighting spirit and great quality.”
Is this Roma side missing some important figures?
“Italian teams are always characterised by the block. In a period of time when calcio is being governed by Juventus, even though this year there are also Napoli, Roma are working well and fighting for the league title, which is clear proof that they are doing things well. They are a team with interesting players. [Edin] Dzeko marks the differences, [Stephan] Shaarawy also brings many things, in the centre is De Rossi and they have a young Turkish footballer Cengiz Under, who is enjoying a good moment.”
How impressive is the Stadio Olimpico?
“The Barcelona players are used to playing in grounds with a lot of atmosphere. The Olimpico dreams of hosting these types of matches. They await throughout the year for historical encounters in search of a magical night. They dream of returning Roma to the place where they deserve to be at, as a club which is up there with the best in Europe. Now they are working well to build a great base that will give them results. They know that Barcelona were the toughest opponents of the draw because they play the best football in the world, but in two games anything can happen. And surely Roma will have their options.”
What memories do you have of your time in the Italian capital?
“I have good memories. It was the first club that opened their doors to me after spending all my life in Barcelona. They welcomed me like it was my home, and I felt very good. It was a very beautiful and intense year. Roma will always occupy a place in my heart.”
Have you been surprised by Barcelona’s performances?
“[Ernesto] Valverde is a great coach. The merit of this club, and what makes me so proud of this team, is to see how the players who have been in the club for so many years, such as Lionel [Messi] , Andres [Iniesta] , [Gerard] Pique or [Sergio] Busquets, are still hungry to win titles. It is essential to have players like that. A good coach with players of this type gives the result that we see.”
Do you consider it to be a more defensive Barcelona?
“In these times they have been stronger in all the lines of play. Valverde has had a great impact on the mentality of possession of the ball and, before losing it, the first moments of pressure are very well worked. They reduce their rival’s space. And they are a team that also know how to suffer when they have to. It is not that they close themselves, but they join together on the lines and stay behind the ball. And on top of that they have good players.”
Who would have guessed this in August?
“In summer the Supercopa de Espana was very important, but valuing a team at that time is not appropriate. The way Neymar left was something unexpected, a surprise for the team. Faced with this adversity, the club knew how to react by bringing in new players and giving confidence to both those who were already there and also to the new ones. The team have formed in a very solid way and it has been demonstrated in LaLiga, which is where this regularity is most appreciated.”
Have you been more surprised by the level of Messi or his teammates?
“Messi is no longer surprising. He continues with this same level all these years, it is more than surprising, it is worthy of admiration. When in a good team dynamic and you see that your maximum reference acts like that and is hungry, then everyone else feels they have to do the same. [Ivan] Rakitic, Busquets, Pique, Iniesta and co. are all performing at a very high level. Also now so is [Ousmane] Dembele. For newcomers, it is easier to join a puzzle in which their pieces are already very solid.”
A new Champions League would be the icing on the cake for Iniesta if he finally leaves?
“Andres does not need another title to close his career as a player. He has already done a lot, earning unique things. It is said that this is his last year, but I can hardly see a Barcelona without him. I know football is like that, but it’s hard for me. I wanted players like Puyol, Valdes or Xavi to play forever at the club.”
Like Pique, who wants to be president.
“For years he has become very solid in the club, both in the team and in the dressing room. He is a very important figure because of his personality and charisma. As a footballer, he has earned the trust of everyone. He has been a part of the club all his life, representing them. He would be a good president, a good coach, a good element wherever he is.”
On a personal level, things are not going well in Alaves. What’s happening?
“It’s been a season in which many things have happened. All this gives me strength and desire to continue to not give up and to overcome all my obstacles. I still trust in myself, that I am the one who has to do it. Physically I feel good. I want to continue playing football and I will wait to find my moment.”