It's definitely reassuring at times like this to know that we have the best manager in the world at the helm. Small details can make a huge difference in ties like this. All it would take to give Barca a head start is for one player to take to the pitch believing it's over. I'm sure that won't be the case, however. I think Rafa has put together a mentally tough squad who won't be taking anything for granted, and even if one or two of them were, I think he'd recognise it and nip it in the bud.
It's definitely true that the supporters need to make this a special Anfield European occasion. The atmosphere inside the ground really pulled us through against Olympiakos, Juventus and Chelsea in '05. It's easy to forget now just how unfancied we were to get past those three teams, never mind win the whole thing.
As Bob Paisley once said, the "This Is Anfield" sign inspires the good players and intimidates the bad ones, and I think the Anfield crowd did much the same thing on those special nights. The club's run to its fifth European crown was magical, and a huge part of that magic was Anfield. There isn't a ground in the world with an atmosphere like it, and I think we need that again if we're to make a similar run this time. I don't doubt that Barca have some special players, but they have a few dodgy ones as well. How will the likes of Valdez (who was rubbish over there), Motta, Belletti or Gudjohnsen do? (Actually, we all know how Eidur did on his last visit to Anfield, don't we?).
As far as events on the pitch go, I think what the 2-1 lead does for us is two things:
(a) It means we don't have to force things like we did against Benfica last season, when an average side ripped us apart on the break. Imagine what Barca could do.
(b) It allows for one moment of brilliance on their part, or one mistake on ours. Granted, with Djimi Traore no longer at the club, our mistake-count has been cut down considerably, but it can always happen. And if it does, it won't be the end of the world.
Again, it needs to be remembered that we have a wonderful manager whose attention to detail and knowledge of European football (in particular Spain) has few equals. I have no doubt we'll be set up right from the get go, and if Barca are going to go through to the quarter final, they'll have to play about as well as any team had ever played at Anfield.
Just two things worrying me. Firstly, I think we need to keep them quiet for the first twenty minutes. If they score early, it will give them a lift and put us on edge. Secondly, I do think we need to attack their weakness, which is their defence. I dread the prospect of dropping deep at any stage of this match, giving them the ball back, and trying to hold on. Not a good idea against a team as strong as Barca, who were stung badly in the first leg and will be going all out against us to get themselves back in the tie (and prevent what could be an aggregate embarrassment if they lose at Anfield). I'm positive, however, that the team will approach the match in the right way and get a good result, probably a draw. The first twenty minutes are key, though.
Just one more thing. Last Saturday I watched as members of the Irish rugby team cried during the national anthem before the match against England at Croke Park. Hundreds of years of history came to the fore in a stadium where the last English men who set foot on the pitch were the soldiers who opened fire on players and spectators at the All-Ireland football final in 1920. I immediately knew that England were going to get trashed, I knew it. They duly were, by a record score of 43-13. It's not very often that you know the certain outcome of a match before it's even started. But Anfield is that kind of stadium, and hopefully come 7.43 on Tuesday, I'll be given that same level of certainty by the Liverpool supporters.