Ronaldinho forecasts English clubs? exit in Europe

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The Independent Football

The Barcelona striker Ronaldinho radiates confidence, and yesterday he was confident that all four English clubs will be eliminated from the Champions' League this week.

The Barcelona striker Ronaldinho radiates confidence, and yesterday he was confident that all four English clubs will be eliminated from the Champions' League this week.

His sights are set on Chelsea, and the Brazilian, voted Fifa's World Player of the Year for 2004, feels that the cream of the Continent will prove too strong for the best of the Premiership.

With Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United all trailing from the first legs of their last-16 ties, the odds are stacked against there being significant English interest in the quarter-finals, even if Liverpool lead Bayer Leverkusen 3-1.

Ronaldinho can see no way back for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tonight, declaring Barcelona as "100 per cent" certainties to reach the last eight.

"I'm sure that Barcelona will reach the quarter-finals," he said. "My predictions would be Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or AC Milan and maybe Inter to challenge. I don't think any of the English sides will do it."

Barcelona will look to protect their 2-1 lead from the first leg at the Nou Camp, where they trailed until the game turned after Didier Drogba's dismissal. Maxi Lopez and Samuel Eto'o struck to give the Spaniards their narrow lead, although Ronaldinho felt the margin of victory could have been greater.

"Having seen Chelsea close up I am still 100 per cent confident that we will go through to the quarter-finals," he said. "We have a better team than Chelsea and I'm certain that we will score at Stamford Bridge to take us through. Chelsea gave us a hard game in the Nou Camp, but our performance deserved better than 2-1."

Where the 23-year-old does give Chelsea credit is in their organisation. "Chelsea's defence were extremely difficult to break down," he said. "Jose Mourinho knew how to keep it tight against us and against me in particular."

But there has been no love lost between the two clubs of late, with accusations from both sides causing tensions ahead of the return leg in London.

Mourinho has alleged that the referee, Anders Frisk, was visited by the Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard in his dressing room at half-time in the Nou Camp, and Ronaldinho said of Mourinho: "People don't like the things he says. I prefer to do my talking on the field. I don't listen to what people say before or after a game."

The Barcelona captain, Carlos Puyol, also criticised Chelsea, accusing them of being "boring" and adding: "Chelsea have to open up and attack at some stage and that's when our attacking players can do damage."

The former Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal claims Mourinho fostered a rebellious streak when he was his protégé at Barcelona. Mourinho has a reputation as being one of the most controversial coaches in world football after a number of outspoken outbursts since he took over at Stamford Bridge last summer. Van Gaal first encountered the Portuguese coach when Van Gaal took over at the Nou Camp in 1997 and, after deciding to give him a chance, he became impressed with his work.

"When I came to the Nou Camp, Mourinho was angry about everything," Van Gaal said. "Sir Bobby Robson had won virtually all that he could have done the season before but was told he had to leave and Mourinho thought it would be the same for him.

"He was extremely angry with the club, but I decided to keep him on and he became a good trainer, although I would never have thought that he would have been so successful."

Looking ahead to tonight's game, Van Gaal said he believes Mourinho's team have the edge despite trailing 2-1 from the first leg.

"I don't think that this game is over at all, Mourinho has a very good team and of course a lot will depend on which players he has available but I believe they can do it," added Van Gaal.

"Although I have a lot of time for Barcelona it is also the same for Chelsea. I know Mourinho as a friend and I follow his progress as I do all the coaches that have been under me.

"He hasn't come to me asking for advice but then again he had three years of it."

Van Gaal believes he instilled in Mourinho the need for discipline in his team which the late Rinus Michels, who died last week, introduced to the Dutch game.

"Michels was the godfather of football in Holland. I studied his coaching methods when I was young," said Van Gaal. "I used to watch Michels as a boy. He was a strong personality and had very organised teams.

"There are a lot of similarities between his style and mine and from what I can see Mourinho has the same philosophy. He learnt a lot under me which it looks like he is now implementing into his own side."