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Barcelona steeled for Schalke onslaught

FC Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard says he is relishing the battle of two contrasting footballing styles as his charges defend a 1-0 lead at home to FC Schalke 04.

Frank Rijkaard believes that Schalke will give Barcelona a stern test
Frank Rijkaard believes that Schalke will give Barcelona a stern test ©Getty Images

FC Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard is anticipating with relish a battle of two totally different footballing styles at Camp Nou when his team and FC Schalke 04 play out the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final.

'A genuine test'
The Dutchman accepts that Barcelona's 1-0 win in Germany last week came at the cost of Schalke learning how best to probe his side's weaknesses. Yet Rijkaard has a superb record in this competition, the Blaugrana having lifted the trophy in 2006 and having lost just three times in their last 30 fixtures. Thus the challenge on Matchday 10 intrigues him. "I really think Schalke are very interesting opponents," Rijkaard said. "They are playing effectively in the German championship right now and they are very strong physically. So this is a genuine test for us. Schalke will attempt to inflict on us more of the direct football which we saw in the second half of the match in Gelsenkirchen – and it will require our complete concentration to defend against it."

Battle of wills
Rijkaard continued: "Our philosophy of football, compared with theirs, is almost completely different but the remedy will be to successfully impose our game plan on them." The hosts, however, must do so without long-term absentees Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Deco although Rafael Márquez continues to gain match practice since returning from injury last week and is likely to feature on Tuesday evening.

'Just another big game'
While Schalke coach Mirko Slomka has been showing inspirational videos to his squad, Rijkaard simply wants the attitude of "just another big game" to dominate his team's preparations as they attempt to earn a semi-final against either Manchester United FC or AS Roma. "No, we won't do anything out of the ordinary – we will just concentrate on the key points, the mental preparation and the idea that we have to entertain our fans," he explained.

Lifting the spirits
Slomka believes there is another way. "It is true that I have been showing my players videos of some of Muhammad Ali's greatest fights and, recently, I also showed them the rerun of the UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan which went to penalties," the 40-year-old confessed. "But the video that will be most inspiring of all will be the video of us playing at Camp Nou." The Bundesliga side have key players such as defenders Mladen Krstajić, Heiko Westermann and Christian Pander carrying a variety of minor injuries. Yet their trainer insists that an away victory – and passage to the semi-finals – remains within reach.

No miracle needed
"People ask me whether we need a miracle to eliminate Barça but I am sure that's the wrong word," Slomka said. "We know that we have to pressurise them much more than we did last week and I have told my players that they have to give their absolute limit at all times. But if individually and collectively we are at our best then I have no doubt that we have a chance of winning and advancing."