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New Barca coach´s offensive style to face Champions League test

SoccerNews in La Liga, UEFA Champions League 12 Aug 2008

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The more offensive style which Barcelona's new coach Pep Guardiola has introduced since taking charge in July will be put to the test Wednesday when the Spanish side hosts Poland's Wisla Krakow in a Champions League qualifier.

Under his watch the club won all five of their pre-season friendlies played in the United States, Italy and Scotland, scoring 25 goals in the process and helping to silence doubts over his perceived lack of experience for the job.

Speaking last week after the club's final pre-season victory, a 6-2 win over the New York Red Bulls, Guardiola expressed satisfaction with the evolution of the squad ahead of their Champions League qualifier.

“We scored six goals, we created an enormous amount of opportunities which is reassuring. What worries me a bit is that they scored two goals,” he said.

Since taking over Guardiola, who played as a midfielder for Barcelona for 11 seasons, has sought to revitalise the team which has not won a major trophy for two seasons.

He immediately deemed as surplus three high-profile players — Portugal's Deco, Brazil's Ronaldinho and Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o — who had been linked to discipline problems.

Deco has since joined English side Chelsea while Ronaldinho has joined Italian side AC Milan but Eto'o's has so far failed to find a new home and his strong performance in the pre-season has increased speculation that the club will keep him after all.

Barcelona has meanwhile been one of Europe's busiest clubs in the summer transfer season, spending around 80 million euros (120 million dollars) on new players.

The midfield has also been bolstered with the signings of Seville's Seydou Keita of Mali and Arsenal's Belarus international Alexander Hleb.

The defence has been strengthened with the addition of Sevilla's Brazilian right-back Daniel Alves, Uruguay centre-back Martin Caceres from Villareal and former Barcelona youth product Gerard Pique from Manchester United.

“From the first day the coach has stressed that the match against Wisla is like a final. The pre-season work has been good and we expect to arrive at the match in the best possible condition,” Caceres said Sunday.

Guardiola however will be without the club's Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi for his first competitive match as Barcelona coach.

The club have reluctantly allowed the 21-year-old striker to play for Argentina at the Beijing Olympics despite a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that it was not obligated release the player.

The club's president, Joan Laporta, recently praised Guardiola for having “put order to the dressing room”, in what was seen as a jibe against former coach Frank Rijkaard who was often accused of not enforcing discipline.

The second leg of the Champions League qualifier takes place at Krakow, Poland on August 27.

Barcelona finished in third place in the Spanish league last season and were knocked out of the Champions League in the semi-final stage.

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