Pep Guardiola will enjoy a “special” occasion when Manchester City take on Barcelona at the ground where he progressed from boyhood fan, to key player and head coach.
City lie two points behind Barca in Champions League Group C heading into matchday three and will aim to overturn a run of four consecutive losses in the tournament against the LaLiga kings.
Guardiola was also on the receiving end of a beating when he returned to Camp Nou with Bayern Munich in 2015, as Lionel Messi inspired a 3-0 win on the way to a semi-final triumph and the European title.
Nevertheless, the 45-year-old conceded this can never simply be a routine fixture for him as a visiting coach.
“It was one-and-a-half years ago when I came here with Bayern Munich. It is always special for me to sit here. This stadium is part of my life,” he told a pre-match news conference.
“I grew up here as a boy and had my football career as a player and a trainer.
“When you travel around you always remember the places and the people you meet. My family is here, that is why I am always happy.
“Of course it is a good test for us to play against the best team.”
Reflecting on his trophy-laden spell as Barcelona boss between 2008 and 2012, he added: “I don’t miss it – I was so happy here and I miss the people I met here.
“I was happy working with them but the club changed the people so most of them I don’t know them. The club remains the same, with a huge history behind it and a huge history in front – a lot of passion from the fans.
“In that moment there was an unbelievable generation of players. It does not matter who was in charge, they were fighters with unbelievable talent.
“It was part of my life, I closed that chapter, I opened in Munich a new one. And now another new one.”
Guardiola sees establishing City as a European force comparable to his former employers as a central target in his latest chapter and a goal the club must work towards over the long-term.
“Last season we got to the semi-finals so credit to [former manager] Manuel [Pellegrini] for what he did in the past to help the people coming next,” he said.
“We cannot forget that Manchester City was 35 years without competing in Europe [without winning a major trophy until the 2011 FA Cup] – 35 years is a long time.
“You are important in Europe when you are there a lot of times and that is the target for the people who are here now – in the next five, six or seven years to be always there competing against the big clubs as best as possible and as much as possible. That is our target.”
City romped to a 4-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach in their opening group game but were forced to battle for a 3-3 draw at Celtic before this most daunting assignment.
“I know what they are going to do tomorrow,” Guardiola said of Barcelona. “I know what I want to do. We are going to try and after we are going to see if we were able.”
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!