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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 13, 2007

Laporta backs under-fire Rijkaard

BARCELONA, November 13 (Primera Liga) - Barcelona president Joan Laporta is confident coach Frank Rijkaard can improve the team's woeful away form which is threatening to hamper their hopes of regaining the Primera Liga title.

Barcelona are only four points behind leaders Real Madrid after 12 rounds of the Primera Liga, but the Catalans have won just once away from home in the league all season.

That sole success came at bottom-of-the-table Levante at the end of September and was preceded by draws at Racing Santander and Osasuna.

Since then, Rijkaard's side have drawn at Valladolid and lost away to both Villarreal and Getafe.

Pressure is mounting on the popular Dutch coach and reports in Spain and England have linked former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho with a return to the Nou Camp, where he worked alongside both Sir Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal.

However, Laporta says he is happy with Rijkaard.

'We have a technical problem which we need to sort out, but I have every confidence in Frank Rijkaard and his coaching staff,' Laporta said. 'I am sure they will take the necessary measures to resolve this, and that we can go on to have a successful season.

'He (Rijkaard) is the one who knows the situation of the players and he has the full support of the board.'

Rijkaard admits his side have been below par away from home and says his players must work harder.

'In the away games there are players who are playing below themselves,' he said. 'We all need to work together to get good results and we are not talking about quality, but mentality.

'When we lose the ball, not everyone works as hard (to win it back).'

Rijkaard's message was thought to be aimed at Ronaldinho, with reports in Spain claiming the Brazilian will be dropped for Tuesday night's Copa del Rey tie against lowly Second Division B side Alcoyano.

The Dutchman is thought to be toying with the idea of sacrificing his favoured 4-3-3 formation in favour of a more workmanlike 4-4-2, with Andres Iniesta moving out to the left wing and Eidur Gudjohnsen operating in the attacking midfield role until Deco returns from injury.

That would mean no place in the side for Ronaldinho, who has been hugely disappointing this season.

Rijkaard hinted changes are likely.

He said: 'I am responsible for the team, so I am not happy with myself. I have to find a solution and I am not going to blame a player because I don't talk about players, but we have to do something.

'We'll see what happens when the moment arrives.'

Nevertheless, the former Holland midfielder says he is sure his team can overcome their problems and claims not to be thinking about losing his job.

'I am convinced we can get over this moment,' Rijkaard said. 'That is what I am working for and it's true that often the solution seems to be a change of coach, but I am not thinking about that.

'We have to make decisions and change something to find a new dynamic.'

Reports in Marca and El Mundo Deportivo on Tuesday both claimed Rijkaard has until Christmas to save his job, with Mourinho the favourite to take over at the Nou Camp.

Former Barcelona and Chelsea full-back Albert Ferrer believes Rijkaard should be given more time.

'I wouldn't change the coach just yet because I still think he can turn things around, and he has already made some decisions lately which we didn't see last year,' he wrote in his column in El Mundo Deportivo.

However, Ferrer believes that, should the club decide to make a change, Mourinho would be the ideal replacement for Rijkaard.

'If Rijkaard is sacked, the club have to bring in a coach with a totally different profile, a manager with a strong character and who sets his guidelines from the start,' he added.

'The first name which comes to my head is Mourinho. I spoke to several of his players at Chelsea and they were thrilled with him, because of his professionalism and his way of leading the team.'

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