Rijkaard battles to avoid end of his era

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The Independent Football

As one Dutch manager feels the axe lift from his neck, another one is back on the chopping block in Spain. Ronald Koeman's controversial reign at Valencia looks to be on firmer ground after reaching the King's Cup final late on Thursday night; but Frank Rijkaard, whose Barcelona team lost the semi-final, return to league action this weekend, with victory at home to Real Valldolid imperative tomorrow.

Rijkaard and Juan Laporta, the club president, were sanguine yesterday, arguing the club can still win the Champions League, but the local sports press declared the end of an era. Barça remain seven points behind Real Madrid, despite the latter's faltering form. The leaders are at home to Valencia tomorrow. Villarreal, two points behind Barcelona, are at doomed Levante.

Athletic Bilbao are expected to field the reserve goalkeeper, Daniel Aranzubia, at home to Getafe, the other King's Cup finalists, tomorrow in place of Armando who was hit by a bottle at Real Betis last week.

Internazionale's seven-point lead in Serie A will be threatened by third-placed Juventus at San Siro today. Patrick Vieira is unlikely to play because of a thigh strain. Roma, in second, are at home to Empoli.

Today's key game in the Bundesliga pits leaders Bayern Munich against Bayer Leverkusen, in third. Rafael van der Vaart, captain of second-placed Hamburg, has promised team-mates an unusual bonus. He will wash their cars if Hamburg, at Wolfsburg today, win the league.