Deco urges patience to break Benfica stalemate

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The Independent Online

The favourites Barcelona have scored 13 goals in four Champions' League home games this season, yet a failure to hit the target from open play in their last three matches has led their midfielder Deco to demand improvements ahead of tonight's quarter-final second-leg against Benfica.

"We have to improve," said the playmaker, "we can't blame the lack of goals on bad luck, even though that has sometimes been the case. But the most important thing is that we are making chances."

Despite dominating the first leg in Lisbon, Barcelona were held to a goalless draw, largely thanks to a sublime performance by the Benfica goalkeeper Marcelo Moretto. "It's impossible for him to play like that again," Deco said, "but we also know that Benfica will again be dangerous on the counter-attack because, like us, they have to score.

"In the Champions' League not only do you need the best team, but you cannot make any mistakes because there are no chances to fight back like in the league," added Deco, the only player in the Barcelona squad to have won the competition - with Benfica's rivals Porto in 2004. "Since the Chelsea game everyone has made us favourites, so maybe people would see defeat as failure, but Barça is capable of winning matches like this and winning the competition. The players are ready, but we must show patience and not get frustrated."

The Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard, believes that his side's recent profligacy could work to their advantage against the Portuguese champions. "If we'd scored lots of goals on Saturday [against Real Madrid when they drew 1-1], it might have been harder to score against Benfica. As it is, the team now has even more desire to beat Benfica."

The former Arsenal defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst is also refusing to panic. "We only scored one goal in the games against Real and Benfica, but the important thing is that we are creating plenty of chances," the Dutch defender said.

Barcelona have problems in defence and will be without the versatile centre-backs Rafael Marquez, Edmilson and Thiago Motta, as well as another former Arsenal player, the left-back Sylvinho. The Argentinian striker Lionel Messi returned to training on Monday hoping to play, but may be left out.

Benfica, who have already beaten Manchester United and eliminated Liverpool, will have more than 5,000 followers, but they will be without Nuño Gomes, the Portuguese league's top scorer.

The Benfica coach, Ronald Koeman, is expected to stick to the same tactic used last week of defending in depth and relying on counter-attacks from the Italian winger Fabrizio Miccoli and former Barcelona midfielder Geovanni.

"We have strikers who can score in Barcelona," Miccoli said. "It's tough, but we have a chance of reaching the semi-finals."

Koeman, the former Barcelona legend responsible for the goal which led to the Catalans' only previous European Cup triumph, at Wembley in 1992, knows that his side are underdogs, but remains bullish. "Anything is possible in football, everything is open," he said. "We're going to fight until the last minute - just like we did in the first game."

Barcelona (probable, 4-3-3): Valdes; Belletti, Oleguer, Puyol, Van Bronckhorst; Van Bommel, Iniesta, Deco; Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Larsson.

Benfica (probable, 4-3-3): Moretto; Rocha, Luisao, Anderson, Leo; Beto, Petit, Fernandes; Simão, Geovanni, Miccoli.

Referee: L Michel (Slovakia).

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