Barcelona prepare for Champions League clash

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Barcelona trained at the Nou Camp Stadium ahead of their UEFA Champions League game against Werder Bremen.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:38 IST
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They may be one of the biggest clubs in world football, but Barcelona could be on the verge of making an unwanted piece of UEFA Champions League history. Frank Rijkaard's side will become the first defending champions that fail to reach the first knockout stage of the competition unless they beat Group A rivals Werder Bremen on Tuesday night. Rijkaard is fairly certain that his side will progress. "I think that these are very heartfelt matches. We play at home this time with the support of our people. So we have to go for them, but with respect towards our opponents. But that's far from being scared. We feel confident and let's see what happens,” said Frank Rijkaard, Barcelona coach. Striker Ronaldinho, who looked every inch the superstar at Monday's press conference, believes that Barcelona will rise to the occasion and win the game for their supporters. "We are lucky to be supported by all of our fans. We know that they will come to the stadium to cheer for us. So Tuesday’s game is like a final and that kind of matches are always prepared in a special way. We are very much looking forward to it,” said Ronaldinho, Barcelona striker. Barcelona may be expected to ease past Bremen at the Nou Camp, but their visitors currently top the German Bundesliga standings. They are also unbeaten in Europe since their two-nil away defeat to Chelsea in the first round of this season's Champions League group matches. Barcelona haven't been particularly predatory in the Champions League this season either - there only two group wins to date were both against Group A whipping boys Levski Sofia. Bremen have kept clean sheets in their last three group games and if they achieve a fourth in a row, then Barcelona will make a dramatic early exit from the competition. The visitors have been in excellent form recently and they currently top the German Bundesliga standings. Midfielder Torsten Frings concedes that Barcelona will be favourites to win the match and advance, but the German international knows that anything can happen on the night. "Last time we played here they won 3-1 I think. We know that Barcelona is a very good team and that they are one of the favourites to win this title. But the field will prove who the best is," said Torsten Frings, Werder Bremen midfielder. Ronaldinho inspired Barcelona to a three-one victory in this same fixture last season, but Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf doesn't have any specific plans to shackle the playmaker. "This is not about stopping Ronaldinho. This is about finding the right responses in each situation. It is about applying to the game the ideas we brought. We will not approach the game against a single player because that would be a mistake,” said Thomas Schaaf, Werder Bremen coach. As far as tough tasks go, things don't get much more difficult than beating Barcelona on their home turf, especially when there is a lucrative Champions League knockout stage place up for grabs. A share of the points would see Bremen advance, but Schaaf has promised that his side will not curb their attacking instincts and play for a draw. Barcelona rarely exhibit anything other than relentless attacking flair, so there are bound to be fireworks when the two sides go head-to-head at the Nou Camp Stadium on Tuesday. (AP)

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