Quarter-final second leg (First leg: Schalke 0-1 Barcelona)
Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard expects to see contrasting styles styles at Camp Nou when his team face Schalke in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
The Dutchman is expecting a physical challenge from the Bundesliga outfit, but he anticpates his players will impose their own style on their opponents.
“I really think Schalke are very interesting opponents,” Rijkaard said. “They are playing effectively in the German championship right now and they are very strong physically. So this is a genuine test for us.
“Schalke will attempt to inflict on us more of the direct football which we saw in the second half of the match in Gelsenkirchen – and it will require our complete concentration to defend against it.
“Our philosophy of football, compared with theirs, is almost completely different but the remedy will be to successfully impose our game plan on them.”
Rijkaard will be without long-term absentees Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Deco although the fitness of Rafael Marquez is improving since returning from injury last week and the Mexican defender is likely to feature tonight.
Rijkaard wants his players to think of tonight as “just another big game” as they look to earn a semi-final against either Manchester United or Roma.
“No, we won’t do anything out of the ordinary – we will just concentrate on the key points, the mental preparation and the idea that we have to entertain our fans,” he explained.
In contrast, Schalke manager Mirko Slomka has been trying to inspire his players by showing them videos of famous boxing fights and epic football games.
“It is true that I have been showing my players videos of some of Muhammad Ali’s greatest fights and, recently, I also showed them the rerun of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Milan which went to penalties,” Slomka admitted.
“But the video that will be most inspiring of all will be the video of us playing at Camp Nou.”
Schalke havedefenders Mladen Krstajic, Heiko Westermann and Christian Pander carrying minor injuries, but Slomko believes that a place in the semi-finals remains within reach.
“People ask me whether we need a miracle to eliminate Barca but I am sure that’s the wrong word,” Slomka said.
“We know that we have to pressurise them much more than we did last week and I have told my players that they have to give their absolute limit at all times. But if individually and collectively we are at our best then I have no doubt that we have a chance of winning and advancing.”