'Barca are not World Club Cup faves' - Rijkaard

December 16, 2006

YOKOHAMA, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard was forced to repeat almost ad nauseam on Saturday that his side were not favourites to win the Club World Cup.

The European champions are odds-on to beat Brazil's Internacional in Sunday's final but Rijkaard insisted his players would not make the mistake of underestimating their opponents.

'You can't say we're the favourites,' an almost exasperated Rijkaard told reporters. 'We have flown a long way to get here so we want to finish the job properly and win this title.

'But Inter are a great side and we have the utmost respect for them. We will have to play as well as we can to beat them.'

Barca are expected to go one better than Johan Cruyff's superb side of the early 1990s by lifting the Club World Cup trophy in Yokohama on Sunday.

Cruyff's Barcelona lost 2-1 to Sao Paulo in 1992 in the Club World Cup's predecessor, a one-off encounter between the European and South American champions.

'We know how important this is to Barcelona,' said Rijkaard, whose side demolished Mexico's America 4-0 in the semi-finals.

'It is a massive game. We will have to play with pride and focus on completing the job.'

Rijkaard likened his Barca side to the AC Milan team he played for when they won back-to-back Intercontinental Cups in 1989 and 1990.

'I have very fond memories of playing in Japan,' said the Dutchman. 'Our fans, players and coaching staff had a unique bond and this Barca side has the same togetherness.'

Rijkaard was quick, however, to repeat his mantra about paying Inter due respect in the final.

'We're not going out onto the pitch thinking we're going to win this game easily,' he said. 'Nobody is thinking like that. It is the opposite. We expect a very tough match.'