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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 10, 2007

Eto'o: Rijkaard not to blame

BARCELONA, December 10 (Primera Liga) - Samuel Eto'o believes Barcelona's indifferent away form is down to the players and insists coach Frank Rijkaard should not be held responsible.

Barca have won just once away from the Nou Camp in the Primera Liga this season and Rijkaard has come under increased pressure from the Spanish media.

However, Eto'o, who made his long-awaited comeback from a thigh injury on Sunday following more than three months on the sidelines, accepts the players must take responsibility for their performances.

Speaking at an event the Cameroon striker was keen to deflect the negative attention away from his coach.

'That's his job and sometimes criticising the coach is the easiest solution, but I think he is the least guilty out of everyone, because he doesn't play,' said Eto'o.

'He is not on the pitch and can't control everything, so the criticism is unfair. As players, we must look at ourselves before we start criticising the manager.'

The 26-year-old claims he has noticed no change in Rijkaard's demeanour recently, despite mounting pressure on the Dutchman.

'He is no different at all. Perhaps he is complaining a little bit more to the referees, but that is good because it helps us as a team,' said Eto'o.

Despite their illustrious array of attacking talent, Barcelona lie four points behind bitter rivals Real Madrid after 15 rounds of the championship.

Nevertheless, Eto'o believes there is no reason to panic just yet.

'We are not even halfway through the competition. It is very early and the important thing is to be there or thereabouts, and not let an enormous gap open up,' he said.

'If you are within four to six points in April or May, you are in the fight.'

For the moment, the African forward acknowledges Real are worthy leaders and admits Barcelona must improve if they are to catch their arch enemies.

'We are on the right track, but we need to get better and that's what we are working to achieve,' he said. 'We are not thinking of losing any games and there is still a long way to go.'

Eto'o also stuck up for under-fire team-mate Thierry Henry, who has been constantly criticised by the press since his move from Arsenal in the summer.

'What do you want from him? Henry signed for Barca, he has played games and scored goals.

'You (the press) say he is a different player, that he is not the Henry of Arsenal, but Barca and Arsenal play with different systems. He will give us all a lot of joy, I am sure of that.'

Meanwhile, the former Mallorca forward refused to respond to the claims made by Real Madrid sporting director Pedja Mijatovic, who last weekend spoke of disharmony in the Barcelona dressing room.

'I don't speak about other clubs. We are happy here and working well. I don't know what the atmosphere is like at Real, so I can't respond to Pedja,' he said.

Having returned to action on Sunday following more than three months on the sidelines, Eto'o is now desperate to get back to his best.

'I feel fit and really good, but I need to get my goalscoring touch back and that will come from playing games,' he said.

After playing for 63 minutes against Deportivo La Coruna at the weekend, Eto'o looks set to start again on Wednesday night when the Catalan outfit face Stuttgart in their final Champions League group match.

However, Eto'o could miss another month of domestic action if he opts to turn out for Cameroon in the African Cup of Nations early next year.

The player was diplomatic about that possibility.

'That is something the club must talk about with my national team. I don't know what will happen, but I will play wherever I am told to,' he said.

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