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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 24, 2008

Laporta backs Barcelona to prove their quality

BARCELONA, April 24 (Champions League) - Barcelona president Joan Laporta believes his side are better than Manchester United and is confident the Catalan giants will advance to next month's Champions League final in Moscow.

The teams drew 0-0 in the first leg of their semi-final at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night, but Laporta reckons his side will prevail in next Tuesday's meeting at Old Trafford.

He said: 'We should have got more from the game, but I believe we have more quality than United and we will demonstrate that at Old Trafford.

'I am proud of the team, they performed very well. The fans also deserve a special mention. They were great and they never stopped supporting us.'

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard echoed those sentiments - to fans who have been hugely critical of the team in recent weeks - and also believes his troops can advance to a second Champions League final in three seasons.

He said: 'The team transmitted sensations and the crowd responded. They were great, it was a fantastic match. It is still open. We are capable or scoring away from home, so we have a great chance.'

Rijkaard will welcome back captain Carles Puyol from suspension at Old Trafford next Tuesday but fellow defender Rafael Marquez is banned after picking up a yellow card on Wednesday night.

Deco missed training on Thursday following an awkward fall in the game against United, but should be fit for next week's second leg. Lionel Messi should also start the return leg against Sir Alex Ferguson's side, despite still being well short of match fitness.

Rijkaard for one was pleased with the way both players performed against the English champions.

He said: 'Deco made a huge effort and I was pleased with him. With Messi, we have to watch him and proceed with caution because he has only come on twice (following his injury) before the game.'

Barcelona midfielder Marc Crosas, who is currently on loan at Lyon, is another believer his parent club are favourites to progress to next month's final.

He said: 'If Barcelona had scored a goal, the game would have been very different, but I think Manchester United have little chance of going through. If they play the same way, United will be very worried.'

Former Barca defender Miguel Angel Nadal insists United were lucky to come away with a draw.

He said: 'The result is unfair. If any team deserved to win the match it was Barcelona because they were the only ones looking for the victory.

'It was said that Manchester United would come here to score goals and settle the tie, but they came here to get a clean sheet.'