FC Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard called on his side "to be brave" because they will have to score "at least once" if they are to overcome Manchester United FC.
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FC Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard called on his side "to be brave" as they look to overcome Manchester United FC and advance to the final of the UEFA Champions League.
Europe has been Barcelona's salvation in an otherwise disappointing season, and a goalless draw in the first leg at the Camp Nou last week has put the 2006 champions within sight of a return to the showpiece. Barcelona dominated at home and Rijkaard is hoping they can keep the initiative at Old Trafford where an away goal could tip the tie decisively their way.
"We have to score at the very least and it is important also to impose our own game, to be brave and get hold of the ball, not let them impose their game and take the chances that come our away," Rijkaard said. "It will take a big effort to get through. That's what we've been preparing for. We want to show some style and we will fight hard to achieve our objective – to get to the final.
"Occasions like this are what footballers dream of," he added. "That's why you become a footballer. United are a great side, but you have to believe in yourselves and believe you can go out and get a result by fighting hard and working hard and showing our quality out on the field. We are playing a great team but we have to believe it is possible."
Belief has appeared to be in short supply in recent weeks. Barcelona have not scored in more than five hours and a run of three wins from 12 games has dented morale. Despite that, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson cannot envisage Barcelona coming to Old Trafford to defend. "I don't think Barcelona can change," he said. "They play the same system, they play the same way. They try to get you on that passing carousel and try to get you dizzy. You have to be patient."
In contrast, Rijkaard predicts a tight encounter, not dissimilar to two years ago when a solitary Ludovic Giuly strike proved the difference against AC Milan over two legs at this stage. "Usually they are very tight matches between good teams, which means the game will be decided by details, by only one goal," Rijkaard said. "The main thing is to keep our organisation and keep on playing the way we want. It will be very interesting."
While Sir Alex seemed relaxed and jovial, Rijkaard was again on the defensive. Saturday's 2-0 loss at RC Deportivo La Coruña has deepened the gloom surrounding his side, whose campaign has long hinged on this match. "We've talked long and hard already about this season and what's happened and what's not gone well. I prefer to concentrate on the present and on the immediate future. We have a very important game, we will be fighting our hardest to make sure things go well and we can draw a conclusion on the season at a later date."