Samuel Eto'o believes FC Barcelona's UEFA Champions League tie against Chelsea FC may have a sting in the tail despite his side holding a 2-1 first-leg lead.
Eto'o scored the winning goal at Stamford Bridge as ten-man Chelsea surrendered a narrow advantage on home soil, but the striker is prepared for more twists at the Camp Nou. "Both teams played well, but I think the second leg will be even more competitive than the first," he said.
Chelsea denied Barcelona the chance to lift a second European Champion Clubs' Cup last season, beating them 4-2 in London after Frank Rijkaard's men had won 2-1 at home. That was a punishing tie for Barça who had been hotly tipped to take the title. "We had a good chance to win last year," admitted the Cameroonian international. "But football is not an exact science and the best team doesn't always win. I'm not saying we are the best. We have to play well, luck is also a factor, and at the end we will see how far we get."
Having seen Cameroon miss out on 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification and a place in the semi-finals of the 2006 African Cup of Nations, with penalty shoot-outs proving costly on both occasions, Eto'o has had his share of recent disappointments. However, the 24-year-old insists such experiences have made him stronger. "It's good to live through such times," he said. "You can't always have nice memories and it's probably in the moments when things go badly that you learn the most - maybe even more than in winning a final."
The forward, who celebrates his 25th birthday on 10 March, is the spearhead of an all-action Barcelona side whose flamboyant style presents a contrast to the more measured defensive style of fellow contenders Juventus, Chelsea or FC Bayern München. "Everyone sees football their own way," said Eto'o. "These teams may think it's better to play that way, and don't forget they are all leading their respective championships. How you play depends on the coach and the way he interprets football. I'm happy to belong to this squad with the way we play."
With vast reserves of talent at his command, coach Rijkaard's ideas have allowed his players to express themselves without sacrificing defensive stability. Asked what the Dutchman is like to work with, Eto'o replied: "Calm. He is very calm, even when you think things are going badly, he always holds his nerve."
Things have hardly gone badly for Barça this term. Ahead in their last-16 tie against Chelsea, the Catalans are also riding high at the top of the Primera División, ten points above second-placed Real Madrid CF. "We have a cushion," said Eto'o. "We have to continue winning but the pressure is on our rivals. When you are behind, it's down to you to win back the points you've dropped. We can afford a couple of defeats without losing the leadership, whereas if Madrid lose, it will be very hard for them to win the title."
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