Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has vowed his team will not be distracted by the prospect of Pep Guardiola’s return to Camp Nou as they prepare for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semi-final, first leg against Bayern Munich.
Guardiola left Barça in summer 2012 after a trophy-laden four-year stint at the helm, and secured a trip back to his former club last month as Bayern overcame a 3-1 first-leg deficit to prevail 7-4 on aggregate against Porto in the quarter-finals. The 44-year-old won 14 titles – including two Champions Leagues – while coach of the Catalan giants, but Bartomeu promised the club remained focused ahead of his imminent return.
“Sooner or later Guardiola will return to Barça,” Bartomeu told Catalan TV station TV3. “Why will we not do anything special on his return? They are coming here to progress from this tie and, although he did a spectacular job when he was at Barcelona, we cannot get distracted. Once the game is over, I’m sure we will see each other in the changing rooms.”
Barcelona are on course for a potential treble-winning campaign under first-year coach Luis Enrique, a former team-mate of Guardiola. They hold a two-point advantage over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga with three rounds remaining and will take on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final later this month.
“Luis Enrique has received criticisms for his rotation policy,” defender Javier Mascherano said. “But we arrive to the critical point of the campaign with 23 players ready to play and that is the merit of our coach.”
Guardiola, who won six titles in an unforgettable first season in charge of Barcelona, including the Spanish, European and Copa del Rey trophies, is set to get an ovation from the supporters on Wednesday. The former Spain midfielder spent 24 years at the club, progressing through the youth ranks before embarking on an 11-year career with the first team that saw him win six league titles and a Champions League trophy.
“It’s a special date for all Barça fans,” Luis Enrique said. “It’s a special game because Pep is in charge of Bayern and it’s his first game since leaving Barça. It will also be special for me and for my players too. It’s a special date for all Barça fans.
“Bayern have a team that aspires to win every title and they have the best coach in the world. Guardiola is the best because he has won trophies with attacking football, because he is capable of adapting to another country and because he is my friend, and friends are always the best.”