Frisk back in firing line as Rijkaard refuses bait

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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho is fast reaching the point in European football where there is no one left for him to fight. Frank Rijkaard, the Liverpool fans, the Welsh police, the organisers of the fixture schedule and, after last night, the governing body that rules the game. You only hope that Uefa know exactly who they are taking on.

Jose Mourinho is fast reaching the point in European football where there is no one left for him to fight. Frank Rijkaard, the Liverpool fans, the Welsh police, the organisers of the fixture schedule and, after last night, the governing body that rules the game. You only hope that Uefa know exactly who they are taking on.

In the build-up to the biggest game of Chelsea's season, the pre-match exchanges to mark Barcelona's visit were as eagerly anticipated as the 90 minutes tonight at Stamford Bridge. This was to be Mourinho against Rijkaard, psychological duelling at its very finest, after the drama of the Nou Camp two weeks ago. A game that began with Mourinho as the irrepressible, daring expert of the pre-match wind-up and ended with him exiting the Catalan city in a fury.

However, when the Chelsea coach finally identified his target last night, it was not Rijkaard that he chose but Anders Frisk, the referee, who dismissed Didier Drogba in the first leg, and the governing body which had appointed him. He would not rise to the criticisms that have been levelled at his side by Barcelona's Giovanni van Bronckhorst that Chelsea were negative and defensive at the Nou Camp. And he mentioned only in passing that he hoped his opponents would not resort to diving.

What really interested Mourinho was the question of having Pierluigi Collina in charge, a referee who would not be prone to falling prey to an "influence from the outside", and the implication, once again, was that his Chelsea team had been the victims of a grievous injustice in Barcelona. That he was also prepared to take on a feisty Uefa official who dared suggest that he should not have contributed to the process of selecting a referee was another message to his players that they are once again battling against the establishment.

It is a favourite tactic of Mourinho's and it is one of the only ways that he can convince a team who are blessed with resources beyond the comprehension of their rivals that they are the competition's underdogs rather than its fearsome emergent force. Mourinho's suggestion that Frisk should have been in charge of the game "so he can help us like he helped them" was outrageous, but it will not go unnoticed by his players.

When he had finished accusing Uefa of selecting a referee who favoured the opposition, and accusing a governing body that is already in the process of disciplining Chelsea of misrepresenting him, he admitted that his team were not good enough in the first leg. "First of all we have to play better than the opposition because in the first leg we didn't," Mourinho said. "The second point is that we have to have a referee who does not influence the result because in the first game the referee had a direct influence on the result."

For his part, Rijkaard was immovable. As Mourinho listened, in another room, to the Barcelona coach speak he will have despaired at finding anything there which he could use against him. The Dutch coach smiled about his opposite number's decision to predict the Barcelona team before the previous match and jokingly suggested a Chelsea team with Robben in every position. But he did say that Chelsea would have to attack this time.

"I have seen Chelsea play in games where they have played further up the field and you cannot forget that they have some really good players," he said. "They can hurt you in lots of different areas. You might say that Barcelona are different: they play to entertain their season ticket holders first but the result is still very important."

Van Bronckhorst's criticism was stronger. "The way they played was a bit surprising, we expected more of Chelsea because they have a lot of good players," he said. "They were very defensive and I am sure they can play a lot better. I've seen them play a lot better."

Once again Rijkaard had nothing but scorn for Chelsea's accusations that he influenced Frisk at the Nou Camp. "It's completely false and I am not going to waste my time talking about it," he said. But there is no question tonight that Collina's performance will come under as great scrutiny as any other player.

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