Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Only a victory over Bremen will save Barça

FC Barcelona face the game against Werder Bremen with a lot of pressure: only a victory will help them stay alive in the Champions League.

Indeed, another result today would see the Catalan club become the first defending champion to be knocked out of the group stage since the tournament's inception in 1992.

"We don't want to think about that," coach Frank Rijkaard said. "We are preparing to win the game. It realy doesn't help to think about losing, it doesn't cross our minds. We have to go out there and do our jobs and beat Bremen, who are a very strong team."

The "Blaugrana" team has eight points, two behind Bremen in Group A. Chelsea, which also has 10 points, has already qualified from the group stage because of its superior head-to-head record.

It's interesting to see that instead of looking to become the first repeat winner since AC Milan in 1990, a loss or draw would result in Barcelona playing in the UEFA Cup, Europe's second-tier tournament.

"We are only thinking about completing our job and we don't want to think negatively," Rijkaard expressed. "We've had a lot of success, they are a good team. It will be an interesting clash."

As we know, Rijkaard rested several players, including star forward Ronaldinho, who is the joint top scorer in the Spanish league with 10 goals, for last Saturday's 1-1 league draw against 16th-place Levante.

"I'm going to play the same way I always do -- putting more pressure on my shoulders won't help my game," Ronaldinho Gaucho said.

"Only a win will do, so the responsibility is squarely on us, but then it is for other games as well. The most important thing is to win."

Midfielder Rafael Marquez is set to return from an ankle injury, but forwards Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi are out because of long-term injuries. Striker Javier Saviola injured his thigh last month and is out.

We must remember that Barcelona, which leads Real Madrid by one point in the Spanish league, has still scored 18 goals in its past six games in all competitions.

However, Barcelona's form in Europe has been shaky since its 2-1 win over Arsenal in April's final, a win that capped a European campaign without a single loss. Its only two win this season have come against winless Levski, and it needed an 89th-minute equalizer from Messi in a 1-1 draw at Bremen.

"The squad is very focused," Rijkaard said. "The added motivation is that Bremen have said they are better than last year and they have pressure themselves.

"I think we have to go out and complete our work -- we can't just think about it, we have to do it."

It can take confidence in its displays against Werder Bremen in last season's group phase, where it won both games, including a 3-1 win at Camp Nou.

"The teams have changed from last year -- both have more experience. Barcelona has the experience of winning it," Bremen manager Thomas Schaaf admitted. "Our footballers are looking forward to the atmosphere and will be inspired by it. But not to go through with 10 points would be a bit hard to take."

"I think we are a good team but, of course, Barcelona are the favourites," Bremen midfielder Torsten Frings said. "Barcelona has more pressure on it than us. They are the champions and one of the best teams in the world, but we have shown our mettle too... and we know a place in the last 16 is at stake."

No comments: