Frank Rijkaard believes his selection headache is a blessing as FC Barcelona prepare to meet AC Milan in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final at the Camp Nou. The Dutch coach has Deco, Henrik Larsson and Ronaldinho all available and is delighted to have the tricky decision of who should and should not play from such a talented pool.
"I have a luxury problem," Rijkaard said. "It is good when players make life difficult for the coach like this. Deco is an important player for us and it is great to have him back." The Portugal midfielder was suspended for Barcelona's 1-0 win in Italy last week and his return could see the Spanish side play a more attacking game.
Will to win
For all their forward-thinking, however, Rijkaard accepts that the key to a Barça victory will be preventing Milan from scoring. "I hope we maintain our usual mentality," he said. "I would like to score a second goal, but I know we must pay attention and not concede one. We are confident. We are playing at home and will have the support of our fans and will be going out to win the game."
Comparisons with the second leg of the last-16 tie against Chelsea FC were dismissed by the coach, as the Blaugrana again look to defend a one-goal lead garnered from the away match. "This is another game," he stated. "If Milan played exactly the same way as Chelsea then maybe we could use that game as a reference, but it will not be the same. It will depend on our opponents, but this game is not difficult to prepare for."
Stay out of trouble
With Carles Puyol, Rafael Márquez and Mark van Bommel all one booking away from missing any final, Rijkaard hopes his players will not give the referee reason to flash his cards. "I hope we come through without picking up any cards," he said, before reflecting on the reaction of the Italian press to the man-marking of Kaká by Edmílson in the first encounter. "If the Italian media do not like it, we will not do it any more," the former Milan midfielder joked.
Rijkaard will once more be without playmaker Xavi Hernández, who began full training last week but is still not completely fit after knee ligament surgery in December. Lionel Messi (thigh) is also out along with the banned Oleguer Presas.
Milan's Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, is confident he knows how to beat Barcelona and has instructed his players not to be afraid. "We must have no fear. Courage and personality are the two fundamental things that we must have – then we'll have nothing to fear."
Milan have never lost a UEFA Champions League semi-final, yet Ancelotti insists it would be no disgrace should the Rossoneri fail to get past Barça. "For us, it is a very important game because it could be our third final in four years, but if we do not overcome Barcelona and do not reach the final then it would not exactly be a disaster," he said. "I will not talk about disasters."
While Massimo Ambrosini is out with a broken leg, Alessandro Nesta, Kaká and Cafu will undergo late fitness tests to claim a place in the visiting lineup. "They all want to play in this game, but it will be up to me to make the final decision," Ancelotti explained.
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