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League title more important to Barca, says Rijkaard

Written by: Staff

MADRID, May 2 (Reuters) Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard believes that reaching the Champions League final has led some to undervalue his side's achievements in the Primera Liga.

Victory over fifth-placed Celta Vigo today or Valencia's failure to beat relegation-threatened Real Mallorca will guarantee the Catalans a second successive league title.

''I've always said that I think that winning the league is the more important of the two,'' the Dutchman told a news conference on Tuesday. ''Personally, I really value the fact that this team has the chance of winning the league two years in a row. It was our big objective for the season.

''It means that as a club Barca is in a good state of health and that the players are doing a good job.'' Rijkaard was anxious to ward off any premature celebrations, however, stressing that his team had not won anything yet.

''It is best to save the celebrations until the job is done,'' he said. ''Patience is an important virtue and I don't like talking too much about these things yet. We have to keep working hard.

''I hope that Barca can maintain this level for many years to come. Then we will be able to say that we have made our mark, but at the moment we are working, with a great deal of pride and responsibility.'' ''The good thing is that we now depend on ourselves to win the title,'' said Rijkaard. ''But Celta are a very good team. They are well organised and they move the ball quickly. They've got some talented players and it will be a very difficult game.'' Barcelona, under another Dutch coach, Louis van Gaal, were the to win back-to-back titles in the Primera Liga in 1998 and 1999. Barca face Arsenal in the Champions League final in Paris on May 17.

Reuters PM RN 2132

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