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Barça going for greatness

Published: Monday 1 November 2004, 21.45CET
FC Barcelona play AC Milan hoping to prove they are closing the gap on becoming a trophy-winning unit.

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Published: Monday 1 November 2004, 21.45CET

Barça going for greatness

FC Barcelona play AC Milan hoping to prove they are closing the gap on becoming a trophy-winning unit.

By Graham Hunter in Barcelona

FC Barcelona go into Matchday 4 looking for revenge against AC Milan for a 1-0 defeat in their previous UEFA Champions League Group F game and hoping to demonstrate they are closing the huge gap between being a promising side and a trophy-winning unit.

Recent setbacks
Frank Rijkaard's players are painfully aware that they played with merit in Milan two weeks ago but gained nothing for their efforts. Since then they have been eliminated from the Spanish Cup by Catalan minnows UEA Gramenet and dropped two points in their chase for the Primera División title after a 1-1 draw against Athletic Club Bilbao.

Trophy drought
Having started their season in thrilling style, Barça coach and players believe that now is the moment to provide proof that they are capable of claiming the club's first trophy in six seasons. However, Rijkaard knows that former team-mate Carlo Ancelotti will send Milan out in search of a fourth win that would guarantee the Italian champions progress into the knockout stages.

Milan 'superteam'
In Deco, Barcelona have a player capable of rising to this challenge, the midfield player having won the UEFA Cup and Champions League in consecutive seasons with FC Porto. "AC Milan are a superteam and we are not," said the Brazilian-born playmaker. "The definition is teams which win things and, at the moment, we are a side which has talent, great players and are becoming a very good unit. But we are not a 'superteam'."

Quality test
"This team needs to prove its quality," Deco continued. "In Milan we played well but did not win. It is because of games like this that I chose not to move to [RC] Deportivo La Coruña from Porto when I had the chance. Instead I came to Barcelona to help them face and hopefully beat the great teams of Europe."

Home advantage
Rijkaard, meanwhile, was thinking along similar lines, saying: "Obviously we go out with the same mentality every time and that is to entertain our fans, but this time the result is everything. Milan are a team who can come and tailor their approach any way they want. But we are at home, we must impose ourselves and we must win."

Ancelotti target
The visitors arrive in almost perfect shape, at least in terms of morale and form, with the prolific Andriy Schevchenko providing a 1-0 victory at the weekend against UC Sampdoria. But continuing with the theme of sides who have the 'killer' touch in crucial situations, Ancelotti has demanded three further points against Barcelona.

Pressure relieved
"The Camp Nou is a difficult place to win, especially given that Barcelona are playing well," he said. "But this is an opportunity to take the pressure off both of our final group games by winning. We will not play calculated football, we will go for all three points." Jaap Stam and Filippo Inzaghi are both unavailable, as are all of Barcelona's long-term injuries, but Ancelotti has the good form of both Hernán Crespo and Jon Dahl Tomasson to encourage him.

'Great event'
"I'll make changes for this game, which promises to be a great event, only if I think the team needs fresh players," the Milan coach said. "Crespo is close to top form and Tomasson will have benefited from scoring in the league recently. And Shevchenko always scores!" For Barcelona, Juliano Belletti has been passed fit after a minor injury while Rijkaard promised: "Ronaldinho is increasingly returning to form and fitness which is crucial for our side."

Last updated: 02/11/04 12.20CET