Rijkaard's fitness focus for Euro champs Barca

August 5, 2006

MARINA DEL REY, California, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, content with the balance of his squad, says his players need to improve their fitness before launching their Primera Liga title defence.

The European and Spanish champions are on a pre-season tour of the United States and Mexico, and Rijkaard has placed a high priority on the squad's physical preparation.

'The main reason why we are here is to prepare for next season and it is important for us to keep on working hard,' Rijkaard told a news conference on Friday.

'The important thing right now is that we have a lot of players in the group who have a difference between their physical shapes.

'Some have joined the squad late having played at the World Cup. For example, yesterday (captain Carles) Puyol played only 30 minutes because any more wasn't possible. But he is a very strong guy and will get back into shape quickly.

'Ronaldinho also played only 30 minutes and I thought that was the longest he could be on the field. We have to take it step by step.

'Some players haven't even had one training session yet so it's obvious we still have a long way to go.'

Two weeks ago Rijkaard did not rule out another dip into the transfer market after securing Juventus duo Gianluca Zambrotta and Lilian Thuram but on Friday he pronounced himself entirely satisfied with the balance of his squad.

'I am very happy with the team I have right now,' he said. 'We have a great squad.'

Barcelona signed Italian defender Zambrotta and French defender Thuram last month for a reported fee of around 19 million euros ($24 million) and have also recruited Icelandic forward Eidur Gudjohnsen.

Barcelona, who begin their Primera Liga campaign with a trip to Celta Vigo on the weekend of Aug. 26-27, kick off their U.S. tour on Sunday against Libertadores Cup semi-finalists Chivas de Guadalajara.

A capacity crowd of 92,650 is expected to fill the Colosseum Stadium.