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01.09.2007 14:22

"We have always suffered against Athletic"

Sandra Sarmiento

Frank Rijkaard has spelt out the dangers posed by Athletic Bilbao as he prepares his FC Barcelona side for the first league game at Camp Nou of the new season. "We have always suffered against them," he noted.

Following the incredible display in the Trofeo Gamper game, the Blaugrana are ready to play their first league game at home against one of the most historical names in the league. This year sees a new Athletic Bilbao under Joaquín Caparrós and they have the aim to stop struggling at the wrong end of the table and begin to challenge for a place in Europe. Although Barça have a good record against them at Camp Nou, Rijkaard remains cautious: "They are a good team," he said. "We have suffered down the years to produce a result against them. We will have to be focussed and to work hard to achieve our aim. They are very well organised at the back."

Keep on moving

qm3d6581.jpgReflecting on the opening day draw at Racing the coach said: "In Santander we lacked freshness. In the Gamper we improved and that is important." Rijkaard recognised that Athletic are likely to go into the game on Sunday looking to shut down Barça's attack and defend in numbers and to counter that he believes that his team must "move the ball around quickly".

Eto’o’s injury

During the Trofeo Gamper game in midweek, Samuel Eto'o picked up an injury that has seen him ruled out for at least eight week. "It is a pity because he is a very important player for us," he Dutchman explained. "It is not going to be an easy time for him and we will have to help him. I expect to see him back in action in the quickest possible time though. His absence is a problem for him and for the team as Samuel is someone who can always score goals."

Patience with Dos Santos

QM3D6598.jpgLionel Messi stated this week that Giovani Dos Santos' impressive performance in the Gamper game reminded him of himself two years ago when he rose to prominence in the pre-season encounter. Rijkaard also drew similarities between the pair. "Messi came in to the side little-by-little too," he explained. "He had great quality, but Giuly was the first choice, although I always knew about how good he would be. Now, it is not that I want to protect Dos Santos, but we must place too much responsibility on him. People judge the team by results and I do not want the younger players to be burdened with too much responsibility."

Motta and Ezquerro

Rijkaard then looked back on the situation of Thiago Motta, who has joined Atlético de Madrid, and Santi Ezquerro, who has stayed. Motta "can be a success in any team", the coach said. "He is a player with a lot of talent and great possibilities. I hope that this change will do him good." Turning to Ezquerro, the Dutchman explained that "it has not been possible to find him a way out and I welcome him back to our squad", he stated. "If he works hard, he will have his chance."
“We have always suffered against Athletic“

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Champions League draw
Following the Champions League draw that saw Barça placed in Group E with Lyon, VfB Stuttgart and Rangers, Rijkaard said: "It is a good group and all the team in the competition are very strong. Lyon have been playing well over the past few years. Stuttgart we know are a powerful team and there is always a great atmosphere in Scotland."

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