Rijkaard bears Barça's weight of expectation

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The Independent Football

The pressure of expectation on Arsène Wenger tonight is an easy load compared to what the Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard, is expected to deliver. Just one European Cup in the history of such a universal club is not what is expected.

And Rijkaard knows it. "I think it would mean a lot," he said last night, picking his words carefully. "But the fact that Barcelona in its history has not won that much doesn't weigh heavily. We are just working to achieve good results so that the fans are proud of the team. Nothing more, nothing less.

"There are many people who believe in us and there's no point in hiding it but going into it believing we are super- favourites would be a grave mistake. We have to be humble." And cagey. The 45-year-old Dutchman - bidding to become only the fifth person after Miguel Munoz, Giovanni Trapattoni, Johan Cruyff and Carlo Ancelotti to have won the European Cup as a player and coach - was not keen to discuss tactics or what he expected.

"You have to score one goal more than your opponents. That's the most important thing," he said. "To have two teams in the final that are really worthy opponents of each other will make it all the more interesting."

For Barcelona this is their fourth European Cup final with the sole victory coming against Sampdoria at Wembley in 1992. Barça have also lost their three previous European finals against English teams. But they also triumphed in their last meeting with one, defeating Chelsea en route to tonight's match. Not that Rijkaard believes in "psychological advantages".

"Playing in a final is always a unique occasion so I don't think you can compare the two teams Arsenal and Chelsea," he said, while declaring his admiration for Wenger.

Arsenal have been aided in reaching a "super" level by the career of Rijkaard's former Dutch team-mate, Dennis Bergkamp, who retires tonight.

"Dennis is something special," said Rijkaard. "We are talking a lot about exciting football and Dennis Bergkamp I think started with attractive football a long time ago. He was one of these players. A lot of the things he did as a football player you can compare to art." It's the most fitting stage, and amid the most appropriate company therefore, for him to depart.