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50-50 Challenge: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

El Clasico 1 day ago
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By ESPN Staff
Apr 9, 2008

Rijkaard looking forward to United showdown

BARCELONA, April 9 (Reuters) - Frank Rijkaard is already looking forward to a high-octane Champions League semi-final against Manchester United after his Barcelona side edged past Schalke 04 at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

'I think we have to get ready for two great games against a team that is in top form and play very good football,' Rijkaard told a news conference after Barca's 2-0 aggregate win over the Bundesliga side.

'I'm delighted to have the chance of playing against them. We are two teams that play very good football,' added Rijkaard, who will be without defender Carles Puyol for the first leg at the Nou Camp on April 23 after he was booked on Wednesday.

'The level in the Champions League semi-finals is very high and anything can happen, so I'm not prepared to say who are the favourites.'

Although they held a 1-0 advantage over Schalke from last week's first leg in Gelsenkirchen, Barca made heavy weather of the return, struggling to hold off the Germans in the first half.

The Catalans' nerves were eventually settled when Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure took advantage of a catalogue of errors in the Schalke defence to stab home from close range just before the break for the only goal of the match.

'It was a difficult game for us,' said Rijkaard.

'Schalke pressured us as we expected. They had nothing to lose. We were anxious playing at home in front of our own fans, but little by little we got better and the players have to be congratulated for the way they fought to get through to the next round.'

Schalke coach Mirko Slomka said his side had paid a heavy price for some isolated defensive errors over the two legs and admitted they also failed to turn pressure into goals.

'Over the 180 minutes of this tie we played 90 very good minutes but in the other 90 we conceded two very costly goals,' Slomka told the news conference.

'Not scoring enough goals in the Champions League is something we have to think about, although I am not blaming the strikers for the way they played tonight.

'Barca were surprised by the way we played in the first half but they adjusted in the second half and then took control after the goal.'

Schalke only scored six goals in their 10 Champions League matches, the lowest of the eight quarter-finalists.