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23.12.2007 22:12

Rijkaard remains hopeful

Vanessa Forns

Frank Rijkaard believes that there are still plenty of games remaining for Barcelona to recover, despite admitting that the defeat by Real Madrid was a strong blow and that the seven-point gap is substantial.

The Dutch coach was visibly affected by the reverse in el Clásico as he stated that Julio Baptista's winning goal had given Madrid an "important advantage", bt he also stated that he feels that the race for the title is by no means over. "It is a strong blow, because we worked hard for the win," he said. "We have to digest the defeat and then look ahead. There are still a lot of games to still play and it is certain that Madrid have an advantage, but anything is still possible."

Convinced of comeback

Despite playing well, Rijkaard said that "it was not Barça's night" and added that "now we have to continue working with pride and with hope. We have to believe in our chances". The trainer went on to praise the attitude of the players as he added that "they have fought until the last moment and I always had a hope that we would change the result".

Key goal

Baptista's goal came as a surprise to the home side and the coach admitted that "it broke the rhythm of the game for us". He continued: "It was a goal that hurt us and made things more complicated. It came at a time when we had just had a clear chance and gave the opposition a boost and made them more comfortable as they were able to sit back and close up in defence."

Compliments for Madrid

Reflecting on the performance of Real Madrid, Rijkaard said that "they worked well as a team". He added: "I felt that that they were well positioned across the pitch, which we expected. They did not create many clear chances, but at the same time their defence pressured our forwards very well. In the end, madrid played well and were very organised. When they won possession they went forward very forward and with real force."
Rijkaard remains hopeful
Back on December 29
The FC Barcelona first team began their Christmas holiday on Sunday and will not report back to training until Saturday, December 29. That is when coach Frank Rijkaard has called the first session to begin preparations for the second half of the season. The Blaugrana take on Alcoyano in the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie on January 2.

On Monday, Carles Puyol will report to Camp Nou to undergo a series of tests after he received a knock in a challenge with Raúl. The club captain was substituted in the game against Real Madrid in the 76th minute.

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