31/03/2009 06:00,
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Boss eyes Barcelona threat

Sir Alex Ferguson has picked out Barcelona as the form team in the quarter-finals of the Champions League - and says the men from the Nou Camp are the biggest threat to United's European crown this season.

United managed to edge out the Spanish side in the semi-finals of last season's competition, but the Reds boss believes they have made improvements - without wholesale changes - under new coach Josep Guardiola.

“Barcelona are the form team, they’ve been terrific this season and everyone’s taking notice of them," Sir Alex told the club’s official magazine, Inside United.

“Their first half performance against Lyon in the second leg of the first knock-out round was absolutely brilliant, they were four up in no time. They can be a threat to anybody and are quite rightly one of the favourites."

Barcelona are on the opposite side of the draw to United, facing Bayern Munich in their last eight tie next week, meaning that the Reds can only play the La Liga side in the final in Rome.

However, Sir Alex feels all four English sides in the tournament are a major threat to anybody. "The English teams have proven the strength of the Premier League in recent years," he said. “Last season we had three in the semi-finals and two in the final, the previous year there were three in the semis and Liverpool made it to the final.

“But we have to recognise that our threats don’t just come from England, the big one will come from Barcelona.

“I’m not sure they’ve improved a lot from when we met them last season but they’ve had a better defensive record since Josep Guardiola took over as coach from Frank Rijkaard last year.

“There’s maybe been a bit more concentration on defending than there had been in previous times. That’s not a criticism of Frank Rijkaard, I just think Guardiola has brought in the awareness that defending is

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