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Barça untroubled by goal drought

Published: Wednesday 5 April 2006, 1.43CET
Frank Rijkaard knows that whichever team rediscovers its scoring touch first is likely to prevail when FC Barcelona and SL Benfica meet at the Camp Nou.
by Lucas Brown
from Barcelona

Tournament statistics


Goals scored24
Attempts on target100
Attempts off target68
Fouls committed230
Yellow cards22
Red cards0

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Published: Wednesday 5 April 2006, 1.43CET

Barça untroubled by goal drought

Frank Rijkaard knows that whichever team rediscovers its scoring touch first is likely to prevail when FC Barcelona and SL Benfica meet at the Camp Nou.

Following the goalless first leg between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final, finding the net is the main worry for both Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman ahead of Wednesday's Camp Nou return.

Barren spell
The clubs' respective Dutch coaches have good cause for anxiety. Barcelona have failed to score from open play in three games, while Benfica are without influential striker Nuno Gomes who has a knee injury, although neither coach would publicly voice such concerns.

Staying positive
After a stalemate at Málaga CF, Rijkaard's Barça failed to capitalise on a string of chances against Benfica in Lisbon and last Saturday drew 1-1 against ten-man Real Madrid CF thanks to a Ronaldinho penalty. However, the Blaugrana boss preferred to stress the opportunities created, rather than any profligacy in front of goal. "We are still making plenty of openings and it is a case of continuing to work hard, maintaining the same spirit and just going for it," he said. "I am not worried. We have to accept that this is happening at the moment, but you have to realise that the team is still playing well."

Waiting game
Barcelona are 70-goal top scorers in the Primera División and have registered 13 goals in four UEFA Champions League home ties this season. Patience, then, should solve the current problem according to Rijkaard. "We have 90 minutes and we will play as we always do," he explained. "We are not going to change our style and will start the game as we do every game, looking for an early goal. It is unusual that we have not scored recently, but the strikers, in fact every player, has confidence. We just have to continue creating chances and the goals will come."

Repeat the feat
Koeman, for his part, sees no reason why his team cannot repeat the performance they gave against Liverpool FC in the last round. Simão and Fabrizio Miccoli scored in a 2-0 away win, despite the English club being billed as favourites following a narrow 1-0 reverse at the Luz. "We scored twice at Liverpool, who do not concede many goals, so why can't we do the same against Barcelona at Camp Nou?" he mused. "We have to make the most of our opportunities and we want to cause an upset, but realistically we know it will be a very difficult game. We are playing one of the favourites, though we have a chance."

Barça absentees
Carles Puyol returns to the Barça defence after serving a suspension last week and then recovering from a blow to his head in the Madrid match. The hosts' injury list is still extensive, however: Rijkaard is without Xavi Hernández, Lionel Messi, Rafael Márquez and Thiago Motta, while Edmílson and Sylvinho had to pass fitness tests. The midfield should be unchanged from the trio that played in Portugal - Andrés Iniesta, Deco and Mark van Bommel - while the only question mark is whether Henrik Larsson or Ludovic Giuly starts on the right of the front line.

Miccoli spearhead
Koeman, boosted by Saturday's 2-1 derby victory at CF Os Belenenses, is set to make just one alteration to his first-leg lineup. Laurent Robert will drop to the bench to enable Miccoli to operate as the main striker, with Geovanni moving to the left of a three-pronged attack. Ricardo Rocha keeps his place ahead of Nélson at right-back as Alcides remains sidelined with a muscle complaint.

Last updated: 05/04/06 21.51CET