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30.11.2007 14:26

Rijkaard: “There is no clear favourite”

Sandra Sarmiento

The FC Barcelona manager recognises “the excellent form” of Espanyol and said “in a derby there is never a clear favourite”.

Espanyol v Barça on Saturday at Montjuïc is going to be the most evenly matched derby in recent years, as shown by the way the teams are playing. The Parakeets have said Barça are favourites, but Rijkaard does not agree, saying “if you look at the table, Espanyol have got some very good results. There is not much difference between the teams in terms of points. There is never a clear favourite in a derby. They are strange matches. They are on form and we are ready for the challenge and think we can go there and get a good result”. It is now two months since Barça won a match away from the Camp Nou.

Espanyol on form

entreno3011_x10x.jpgValverde’s side may have started the season poorly, but have since gone on to go 9 matches without defeat. The win at the Sànchez Pizjuán was the turning point, and Espanyol have climbed steadily up the table ever since. And after 13 games they are now in the Champions League zone. “They are playing well away from home, are well organised and have a lot of talent”, said Rijkaard. “But at home they are finding it harder to deal with being favourites, and that hands us a big advantage. But Espanyol seem to play better against the big teams”.

Valverde’s contribution

The Espanyol boss made his league debut the same day that Rijkaard did, and at the same stadium, San Mamés in August 2003. Ernesto Valverde since moved to Espanyol, a side he guided to the UEFA Cup Final and this season they are one of the most regular outfits in the championship. Rijkaard is a strong admirer of the manager from Extremadura. “He is doing a good job and getting good results. Espanyol is one of the strongest teams and he should be congratulated. I think he is the kind of manager that could work for any club”.

Added motivation

Barça failed to beat Espanyol last season. At Montjuïc, the blue and whites beat Barça 3-1 and in the return at the Camp Nou a late Tamudo goal secured a 2-2 draw. That means Barça will be keen to get some revenge “not just because of last season, but because a derby is a special occasion for both teams”, said the Barcelona coach.

Henry injured

entrenament040907.jpgThe French striker will miss Saturday’s game though injury and Rijkaard feels it is a good moment for him to get some rest. “He is recovering from injury. I have spoken to the player and he needs this moment to get better, to be able to do good things on the pitch. He has been getting used to things up until now and has always played despite not being 100 per cent. He has made sacrifices for the group, but now we have to wait for the doctors to give him the green light to play again”.

Ronaldinho on the bench

For just the third time since he joined the club, Ronaldinho sat out the European game in Lyon. Frank Rijkaard said “I ahd to pick an eleven and that was the one. It is not all about one player. There always has to be an action and a reaction. That happens every day … But it was nothing definitive.” He added that Ronaldinho is physically and mentally ready to play the game from the start.
Rijkaard: “There is no clear favourite”

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With so many players out, Frank Rijkaard has picked two reserve team players in centre back Botía and midfielder Víctor Sánchez. “Yes, there are two reserve team players and the dynamics are different. It could be very positive and interesting for them”, said the Barça manager.

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