Pep Guardiola set for emotional reunion

Pep Guardiola is looking forward to returning home after the Champions League semi-final draw pitted Bayern Munich against Barcelona.

There was an audible gasp at Uefa’s headquarters in Nyon yesterday when the Spaniard’s current side were drawn against the club with whom he achieved so much as both player and manager.

Guardiola’s four-season spell at the Barca helm yielded 14 trophies, including two triumphs in the Champions League – something he will now look to deny them.

The eyes of the footballing world will be trained on the Nou Camp on May 6, when he leads Bayern out for the first leg of a tie which will decide who progresses to the Berlin finale.

“I knew it would happen sooner or later,” Guardiola said. “It’s my first return to Barcelona, my home. I was there as player, I was there as coach.

“Of course it is special for me, for Thiago (Alcantara, who also left Barca for Bayern), for my staff. I am very happy that I can experience this.

“It is a nice game, but not easy. Believe me, Barcelona are the strongest!

“I’m happy for Luis Enrique. He’s a great coach, a great guy, a great man. We will definitely try to play the final in our capital.”

Guardiola and Enrique played alongside one another for many years at the Nou Camp, winning a host of medals together.

Now they will sit in opposite dugouts in a tie which Barca coach Enrique is understandably excited about.

“It’s a special game because Guardiola is their coach,” he told reporters at a press conference. “It will be the first time he comes back to face the club. It will also be special for the players.

“We’ve played 10 matches in the Champions League and we’ve won nine.

We’ll be out to win both at home and away. Our approach is clear. Guardiola is the best because he’s won so many titles, because of the way he did it, and because he’s adapted to another country with a very difficult language and he’s implanted his ideas.”

As if Guardiola’s return was not exciting enough, yesterday’s draw opens up the possibility of a first-ever Barcelona v Real Madrid final.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side overcame city rivals Atletico to secure a fifth successive semi-final appearance, where Juventus will look to halt their quest to become the first side to retain the Champions League. The ’Old Lady’ have the best record of all the semi-finalists, having progressed to the final on seven of their 10 appearances at this juncture.

“At this stage of the competition, all of the sides are difficult,” former Juventus boss Ancelotti said.

“Juventus is a club that have a legendary history and it is returning to a semi-final after 12 years.

“They are having a very good season and have practically won the Italian league. That means they can focus more on the Champions League.”

Meanwhile Bayern can wrap up a third straight Bundesliga title this weekend if they can beat Hertha Berlin today, although they would still have to wait 24 hours before being able to celebrate if Wolfsburg fail to win at Borussia Monchengladbach.

That could be considered quite likely with Gladbach aware that a win for them would mean a place in the Champions League next season, together with Bayern, the Wolves and Bayer Leverkusen, should the latter win their derby match in Cologne.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox