Pep Guardiola returns to Barcelona looking to maintain Bayern Munich’s strong recent record against its La Liga opponents.
Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola makes his return to the Camp Nou on Wednesday targeting a repeat of the sides’ UEFA Champions League semifinal of 2013.
Bayern cruised to a dominant 7-0 aggregate success two years ago under Guardiola’s predecessor Jupp Heynckes, before going on to complete a famous treble. For Guardiola, Bayern can only lift two titles this term and to do so it will need to arrest stuttering form against a Barca side full of confidence.
While Guardiola’s men were dumped out of the DFB-Pokal semifinals by Borussia Dortmund before losing 2-0 to Bayer Leverkusen, Barca put eight past Cordoba to keep its treble hopes on course.
Javi Martinez made his long-awaited return from a knee injury at the BayArena and is focused on helping shackle Barca’s free-scoring front trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
“The knee is good. Leverkusen was a good test for me and now I’m ready to help my team in the next game,” he told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s first leg. “Whether I play or not depends on the coach. Stopping Messi, Neymar and Suarez will be very difficult.
“But we are not afraid. If we want to win, we can’t allow ourselves to be afraid. We have a big heart and we have a big goal.”
Robert Lewandowski is set to feature with a mask after sustaining multiple injuries against former club Dortmund although Franck Ribery (ankle) remains doubtful.
Guardiola’s former Barca teammate Luis Enrique has one worry – having seen Jordi Aba train alone on Monday – as he seeks to ensure the four-time winner reaches its eighth final.
The pair both coached at Barca B after their playing careers ended with Luis Enrique making a strong start in his bid to emulate Guardiola’s 14-trophy at the Camp Nou helm.
Victory on Tuesday would set Barca on course for its first Champions League final appearance since 2011 and the Liga leader could hardly be in better form.
Winning 15 of its last 16 games in all competitions and with Messi taking his tally for the season to 40 at the weekend, Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu played down the importance Guardiola’s return.
“There’s no favorite. It’s an open tie against a great team that has a coach who knows us very well,” Bartomeu told Hat Trick Barca. “It is necessary to honor Pep and I believe it has to be spontaneous. We won’t organize anything. There’ll be no video or anything. He comes with all the honours but also to win. After the game we can salute him.
“I believe the relationship between Guardiola and the board ended well. The doors of Barca are open when he wants to come back. I think he will one day.”