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Rijkaard ready for showdown

FC Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard was keen to play down the tag of favourites ahead of his side's all-Iberian meeting with Sevilla FC in Monaco on Friday.

FC Barcelona have the chance to lift the UEFA Super Cup for the third time as they take on Spanish rivals Sevilla FC at the Stade Louis II on Friday evening, but despite being many people's favourites, coach Frank Rijkaard was in characteristically restrained mood ahead of the Monaco meeting.

'Wait and see'
Barça claimed this trophy in 1992 and 1997 – the latter, the final event before the competition moved to the principality - and have lost this match on three further occasions. Rijkaard's team have already landed one honour this week, the Spanish Super Cup last Sunday, but there is no danger of familiarity with Sevilla breeding contempt. "It's obviously difficult to come up against another Spanish team because they know us so well," he said. "It will be a very interesting game. I can see in the players' attitude that they're confident and we're fully prepared, but we respect Sevilla a lot as they've proved themselves to be a top team. We must wait and see."

One victory apiece
While Barcelona won the UEFA Champions League in Paris, Sevilla overwhelmed Middlesbrough FC 4-0 in the UEFA Cup final for their first European silverware, and for Rijkaard, provide proof of their credentials. "Sevilla played very well last season, but this is another year and we'll have to see if they've improved," he said, before recalling that each side had defeated the other in the 2005/06 Primera División. "They gave us a lot of trouble last season. We're aware of what we will need to do to win and know it won't be easy. I have a lot of respect for Sevilla although we have to look at ourselves and not worry about them."

Upper hand
This will be the first time Spanish teams have contested the final, although Italian clubs twice met in the UEFA Super Cup in the early 1990s. Barça have the better record against Sevilla, having won 63 of their 124 domestic league encounters, compared to Sevilla's 34 victories. They also triumphed 4-2 on aggregate in the sides' only previous clash in UEFA club competition, in the 1995/96 UEFA Cup third round. With that in mind, it was little surprise to see Sevilla coach Juande Ramos assume the role of underdog, saying: "Barcelona are champions of Europe and that makes them favourites, but we have won the UEFA Cup and that makes us confident and gives us hope that we can win this match."

'Best in Europe'
The Sevilla coach is likely to be without centre-back Aitor Ocio due to a knee injury, while midfielder Duda has yet to recover from a torn left-leg muscle. While acknowledging the tough task ahead, Ramos nevertheless retains considerable belief in his players. "Sevilla are a small club compared to Barcelona and we find ourselves as underdogs against the best team in Europe," he said. "Yet that doesn't make us any less determined to win. Sevilla tried for many years to win a European trophy and now we want to seize another one. We will have chances during the match and we will have to make the most of them when they arise." The stage is set for a fascinating Iberian encounter.