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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov, 22, 2006

Rijkaard confident Barcelona will reach last 16

SOFIA, Nov 22 (Reuters) -Coach Frank Rijkaard is confident Barcelona will qualify for the Champions league knockout stage after easing to a 2-0 Group A win at Levski Sofia on Wednesday.

To avoid becoming the first the European champions to be eliminated at the group stage, Barcelona must beat Werder Bremen at home in their final group match in two weeks' time after the German side stayed two points ahead of them with a 1-0 win over already qualified leaders Chelsea.

'We know it's going to be a difficult game but I am very optimistic that we will come out on top and reach the last 16 of Europe's premier club competition,' Rijkaard told reporters.

'We have many versatile players who are very good with the ball at their feet and capable of rising to the occasion. That's what I will ask them to do against Bremen,' he said.

Rijkaard praised Levski for a spirited performance and said a patient approach had paid off for Barcelona.

'It wasn't a great game of football from us but we were patient and got the result we needed. Levski fought back well after conceding an early goal and never made it easy for us.

'It is sometimes difficult to play against sides like them with the vociferous home crowd getting behind their team but the second goal was vital and took the pressure off.'

Barcelona missed several good chances to win by a bigger margin after Andres Iniesta had made it 2-0 in the 65th minute following Ludovic Giuly's early opener.

Levski coach Stanimir Stoilov said his team had performed within their limits, adding they benefited from playing 'the strongest European teams' after becoming the first Bulgarian side to qualify for Champions league group stage.

'I think we played very well until the second goal, which took the wind out of our sails. Lapses in concentration did the damage again but we were up against a great team with a wealth of experience and so many options at hand,' he said.

'We shouldn't be too disappointed because it is difficult not to make mistakes against teams of Barcelona's quality.

'It is obvious that we have to work hard to improve and take our game to a higher level, but we have learned so much in our debut season in the Champions League.'

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