Rijkaard promises Barcelona only have eyes for El Clasico

"How can you play one match and think about another?" the Dutchman asked the 600 journalists in the Nou Camp ahead of the 98,000 sell-out. "It's not possible. The nature of a top footballer is that he goes on the pitch with the intention to enjoy himself, to win and to prove himself every time. I've always found it strange to hear people asking if a player might be distracted from this game by a match which is around the corner."

Barça lead Real by 11 points with eight league games left and are odds on to beat a side who have won just once at the Nou Camp in the league since 1983.

Rijkaard, however, refuses to accept that victory will ensure his side retain the title. "We don't think that the league will be ours if we win this game," Rijkaard said. "A victory is crucial as we push try to win La Liga, but for Real this game is also very important. They need to win or at the very minimum finish the season with a good image. We know we are playing against a team which is full of quality and which is desperate to win."

Rijkaard also explained why he rested Ronaldinho and Deco for last Saturday's 0-0 draw at Malaga. "The season is long and I wanted to make sure that they were full of energy for this game and the second leg against Benfica," he said.

Rijkaard's words came after the Real midfielder Guti revealed this week how he always wants his side's Catalan rivals to lose, but Rijkaard refused to be drawn. "We don't need any extra motivation to beat Madrid - not their words, not how they are playing."

Talking about the importance of El Clasico Rijkaard compared the game to his own playing days. "A derby match is about a city divided so this isn't identical to a Milan-Inter derby that I've played in, but it is as intense and as famous. Maybe it's comparable with Milan-Juventus," he said.

Barça will be without Edmilson, Rafael Marquez, Lionel Messi, Sylvinho and Spain midfielder Xavi, who is back in training after a cruciate knee ligament injury. David Beckham is set to start for Real after picking up an ankle injury training in midweek. His team-mate Raul is again likely to be on the bench after recovering from injury.

Derby confrontations: Three games to remember

* 21 June 1936: Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 1

A month before the Spanish Civil War, Real Madrid met Barcelona in the Cup final. Madrid's players had been ill-treated on visits to Barcelona and a fired-up Real hung on to a 2-1 lead with 10 men when their Catalan goalkeeper Zamora pulled off the greatest save in Spanish football history.

* 13 June 1943: Real Madrid 11 Barcelona 1

Barcelona were treated to a terrifying pre-game changing-room visit from Franco's Director of State Security (the General was a Real fan), who told them they were only playing due to the regime's "generosity".

* 17 February 1974: Real Madrid 0 Barcelona 5

In his first game for Barcelona - after snubbing Real, apparently because of their right-wing connections - Johan Cruyff scored one and set up three.

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