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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 15, 2006

Deco warns Arsenal: 'Barca know how to defend'

Deco believes Barcelona are better equipped to win the Champions League this season after becoming more defensively minded over the last year.

Last season the Catalan side were knocked out of the competition after conceding four goals to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

That defeat, coupled with a loss to Real Madrid the same year, led to claims Frank Rijkaard's side lacked the tactical expertise to claim Europe's biggest prize.

However, this year a more resilient Barca have shown an ability to defend slim leads as they have progressed all the way to the final, where they will face Arsenal on Wednesday.

'It is true that we now know how to defend well,' explained the 28-year-old Deco.

'Instead of just pressing forward we have learnt to adapt to each game and remain concentrated throughout.

'We still go out to win the games like before but now also we put a lot of importance on defending strongly and not getting caught out by sloppy mistakes.

'It is going to be a difficult game against Arsenal definitely, but we will play to our strengths and we have confidence.'

Barca demonstrated their new-found defensive nature in the re-match against Chelsea, winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge before progressing with a 1-1 draw at home.

Although Rijkaard has retained an attacking 4-3-3 formation, he includes a defensive player in either Thiago Motta or Edmilson in midfield and also has told forward-minded players like Deco to do their share of defending.

In defence he has also preferred Oleguer Presas at right-back ahead of Juliano Belletti, who is known for his forward runs which often leave space at the back.

Barca are known as a team of stars but Deco insists at the heart is a strong team spirit.

The Portugal playmaker added: 'We are a team of individuals but also importantly a team.

'There is not one side which is good and is made up of individuals who play for themselves. We have a lot of individuals but so do Arsenal with for example (Thierry) Henry.

'Good teams can be made up lots of different types of players - some have individualists, some have older, more experienced players and so on. What is necessary is to have an equilibrium and to have a way in which to break down teams.

'This season we have had more experience but also we have had people like (Henrik) Larsson available and other important players who were injured last year - although at times other players have been injured in this campaign like Rafa (Marquez).'

Deco won the competition two years ago with Porto but he does not believe this will give him a significant edge.

'It is something on my side that I have won it before and I know what to expect. I have gained from the experience but this is another occasion and different circumstances. We need to prepare well for it and be relaxed,' he said.

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