Cruyff: Barca keen to avoid English... except Arsenal

Former Barcelona forward Johan Cruyff says his former club will be keen to avoid Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals, but would lose no sleep should they be paired with Arsenal. Rafa Benitez's side were, seemingly, on the verge of meltdown after a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough all but ended their Premier League title challenge.

But a 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid followed by a stunning 4-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford last Saturday has reignited the Merseysiders, leading Cruyff - who made more than 140 league appearances for the Catalans before managing them from 1988-96 - to admit that they are now the form side of the competition.

“For sure, many of those who feared playing against Manchester [United] don’t want to face Liverpool from now on because of the way they demolished Madrid and then hammered United,” he told El Periodico.

“They were two convincing and prestigious victories, but each was different.

“Against Madrid, Liverpool went on the pitch to attack and press them. Against Manchester, they went shoulder to shoulder and the game finally turned their way thanks to one incident: Vidic’s dismissal and the direct free-kick.

“Against Manchester United, Benitez felt comfortable with a more defensive team that was always together so that they could intercept the ball and play fast on the break.”

But although Cruyff believes Barcelona would be eager to avoid Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in the last eight of the Champions League, facing Arsenal - who eliminated Roma on penalties in the last 16 - would not be a problem.

“Playing against Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea won’t be easy, especially since Hiddink arrived,” he said.

“Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Villarreal and Porto are put in the ‘if we play them, we go through for sure’ box, but we should be careful of this idea in the dressing room, because no second-rate clubs are remaining.”