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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr, 28, 2008

Rijkaard: Ronaldo may pay for penalty miss

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard heaped the pressure on Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of tomorrow's Champions League semi-final second leg at Old Trafford.

Newly-crowned PFA Player of the Year Ronaldo was guilty of a penalty miss in the goalless first leg at the Nou Camp last week as United failed to secure an away goal.

And Rijkaard believes the finger will be pointed at the Portuguese winger should the Catalan club ultimately progress to the final.

'It could be important,' Rijkaard said of the missed spot-kick. 'If we manage to go through then I think we'll probably hear about the missed penalty in Barcelona. So it will be all or nothing [for Ronaldo].

'If we go through then the pressure will be on Ronaldo. It will be an interesting game - also psychologically for some Manchester United players.'

While Barcelona continue to impress on the Continental stage, they have struggled domestically this season.

Saturday's 2-0 reverse at Deportivo La Coruna ended Barca's hopes of wresting the Primera Liga crown from Real Madrid, and the pressure is on Rijkaard to deliver in Europe's premier club competition.

However, the Dutchman refused to dwell on his side's inconsistent campaign, insisting that he is only looking forward to the challenges ahead.

'I think we've talked long and hard this season about what's happened and what's not gone well,' he said. 'I think I'd prefer to concentrate on the present and the immediate future.

'We have a very important game tomorrow night and it's all about fighting our absolute hardest to make sure things go well, and then you can draw conclusions on the season at a later date.'

Rijkaard called on his team to put on a 'brave' display against Sir Alex Ferguson's men, and admitted Barca need to find the net if they are to have a realistic chance of reaching next month's final in Moscow.

'I think we need to score a goal at the very least to make sure we go through - we need to impose our own style of play,' he said. 'We have to try and be brave and pass it around and keep possession, and maybe not get involved in Manchester United's style of play too much.

'It's obvious that it's going to take a big effort tomorrow night but that's what we've been preparing for. We're hoping that we can show that we can fight hard to achieve our objective, which is to get through to the final.

'We have to believe in ourselves. We have to believe we can go out and get a result, and I think by giving our best and showing our class out on the field that gives us a good chance.'

Even if Barca were in form, scoring against United on their home turf would be a tall order.

But given that Barca have failed to score in their last three outings, the coach has been forced to prepare for the lottery of penalties.

'If you're aware that the tie as a whole could end up as a draw then you practise penalties, and that's what we've done,' he added.

Rijkaard refused to be drawn when questioned as to whether Barca's indifferent form of late would herald a change of tactics.

He said: 'We can talk here tonight as much as you want about tactics - and obviously we are preparing hard on that front - but as soon as the match begins, whatever you say here counts for nothing - it's how the match develops from the first whistle.'

The coach has made few changes from the squad that contested the first-leg stalemate, with captain Carles Puyol the most notable returnee following a one-game suspension.

Rafael Marquez makes way for the skipper after he himself picked up a ban after being booked in the first leg.

The only other change to the 18-man travelling party sees utility man Edmilson return from injury in place of youngster Giovani dos Santos.

When asked whether it worries him that tomorrow night's game could be his last in Europe with Barca, the under-pressure Rijkaard replied: 'No, not yet it doesn't.'

He added: 'I think occasions like tomorrow night are what footballers dream of. That's why you become a footballer - you want to play in games like this.'

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