Pep dismisses favourites’ tag

BARCELONA manager Pep Guardiola has warned his side will be punished if they go into their clash with Manchester United over confident.

The Catalans have swept away all before them this season but Guardiola warns that Alex Ferguson’s side will be formidable opponents.

Guardiola declared: “I would feel very presumptuous if I felt we were favourites against a team like Manchester United, who have played in three of the last four Champions League finals and in a game we are going to play in London. If my players feel they are favourites, I’ll tell them they are more mistaken than ever.

“We have to guess what United will do. Park, Nani, Chicharito, Valencia... they are all very intense in their pressuring. They are a very dangerous team in space. They can put out four or five different line ups. They are one of the best teams in the world”.

Guardiola also revealed that he’s watched the Rome final of 2009 a couple of times, when Barcelona proved too good for United. “We sat and watched it and United were much better than us in the first-half, when we created just one chance — Eto’o’s goal — and only had two and a half long periods of possession. We had more control in the second-half. The level was very similar between us — they are competitive and strong”.

Playmaker Leo Messi meanwhile reckons this season’s final will be a much more closely contested game than the 2009 Rome clash. “The good memories of Rome are in the past. The Wembley final will be completely different.

“We are up against a great team in a game that will be completely different. I don’t know if United are stronger than two years ago, but I am clear that this will be a very even final.

“They’ve just won the Premier League and they are in the Champions League final. They have an attack with a lot of quality in players like Rooney, Chicharito and Valencia. I see them as a very tough team — a very difficult team to beat”.

But Messi still believes the Catalans will ultimately triumph on Saturday.

“I always think we will win every game. I trust my team-mates. We are all very excited and up for the game and if we play as we always do and do things right, we will win.”

Guardiola revealed the Catalan club will wait for today’s forecast before deciding when they travel to London for the final.

Barca were forced to travel by bus to Milan to face Inter in the semi-final of last year’s competition after flights were cancelled due to the ash cloud which covered much of western Europe.

And Guardiola is hoping for the best this time around as another erupting Icelandic volcano threatens to cause flight disruption over the UK.

“I hope the volcano sleeps a little bit longer,” Guardiola said.

United’s Nemanja Vidic, meanwhile, is certain the tear-stained memories of Rome have ensured United have stayed focused for the Champions League final despite winning the Premier League.

“We are celebrating but everyone is thinking about the next game,” he said.It is the biggest game of the whole year. We have to prepare as best as we can for Barcelona.

“We know what it feels like to go to the final and lose.

“That match was one of the saddest moments of my career. I am sure all the players will not forget it.”


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