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29 Apr 2008 08:33
Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard shrugged off mounting speculation about his future on Monday as he said his side had prepared for a penalty shoot-out ahead of their Champions League semifinal second-leg clash against Manchester United.
The Catalan side, who held United to a goalless draw in last week’s first leg at the Nou Camp, are 14 points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid following a 2-0 defeat to Deportivo La Coruna on the weekend.
Rijkaard’s position looks far from secure but he was bullish in the build-up to Tuesday’s second leg at Old Trafford and declared his team’s chances of reaching the final were “five out of five”.
“We need to get a positive result,” said Rijkaard, who dismissed several questions about his future at a news conference.
“We need to score a goal to make sure we go through,” the former Dutch international added.
“We’ve got to impose our own style of play, get hold of the ball, pass it around and keep possession and maybe not get involved in United’s style of play too much.
“We need to have some style and fight hard to gain our objective, which is to reach the final. We can talk as much as we want about tactics and we’re preparing hard but once the match starts it’s about how it develops.
“You’ve got to believe in yourself, fight hard, work hard, show our quality out on the field.
That will give us a good chance.
“Against Manchester United we have to play strong.
Rijkaard was adamant he knew nothing about United’s 2-1 defeat away to Chelsea on the weekend, which saw the Londoners move alongside the Red Devils at the top of the English Premier League with just two games of the season left.
However, he added: “Psychologically it could be difficult and it could be interesting.”
Rijkaard, without suspended Mexican defender Rafael Marquez, revealed his team were as ready as they possibly could be for a penalty shoot-out after a tight first leg.
“The tie could end with a draw so you prepare for penalties and that’s what we’ve done.”
Meanwhile, Italian defender Gianluca Zambrotta insisted Barcelona could put their miserable domestic form behind them and triumph at Old Trafford.
While the game has been billed as a clash of the two best attacking teams in Europe, Zambrotta said a calm approach was in Barcelona’s best interests.
“It will be a tough game for both sides and we’ve got to play with intelligence, be smart and carry on in the same vein as we have in the Champions League all season,” Zambrotta said.
“We need to be motivated up for it and very concentrated. We’ve been more consistent in the Champions League than in the league and you can see that with the sort of win we had at Schalke.
“Both teams are showing signs of tiredness. United lost at Chelsea and we had the same result at Deportivo. Both want to get to the final but we’re just both showing signs of wear and tear towards the end of the season.
“Whatever happens, if we get through will be fantastic and maybe things will calm down. We’re motivated and we want to get through.”—Sapa-AFP
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