Returning to the Champions League after months of league and Cup commitments is never easy. In fact, since Guardiola took charge of FC Barcelona, the team has never won the away leg of the last-16 round. “It’s always been very difficult to get into this competition [after the break], and it’s always a risk to play against Germans. Against Stuttgart (1-1), two years ago, they deserved much more,” said the Barça manager during today’s press conference. For this reason, Guardiola believes that his team must score a goal in tomorrow’s match at the BayArena, saying, “it’s vital that we score.”
Guardiola has nothing but respect for German sides. “If we allow Bayer Leverkusen to run … they are a lot stronger than we are. They have four or five players that are 1.90m tall and they’ve scored a lot of goals off dead balls. They can put you in a bind if you don’t control the game. It’s the biggest virtue German sides have,” said Guardiola. The manager is aware of the importance of Tuesday’s match and he believes that ball possession will be a determining factor in the outcome of the tie. If Barça dominates possession, the result, in all likelihood, will be favourable to Barça. If neither team dominates the match, the game could take a turn for the worse.
“It’s a serious challenge to win the Champions League”
The defeat in Pamplona this weekend featured prominently in today’s press conference. With the league title further out of reach than it was before, Guardiola said it would be a mistake to demand a Champions League title from his team: “now that it appears as though the league is difficult [to win], it seems as though we are obligated to win the Champions League. As if that were easy. It’s not. The challenge is to compete and at the end of the season we’ll see where we are.
“We have to take this one step at a time, because winning the Champions League is a serious challenge. I will not promise that we’ll win it. We didn’t promise that in the first year, when we nobodies, and we won’t promise to win the title now,” said Guardiola.
Taking “random” out of the equation
On the game in Pamplona, Guardiola indicated that “we were penalized for not adapting as quickly as possible to game conditions and game circumstances.” However, the team played “a great second half, where we did everything and more to mount a comeback.” For the manager, “we have a problem: we’ve dominated the game for a lot of years. [In the past] the random factor didn’t figure into our play. We didn’t give it any room. We must get to that level [again] and not let randomness feature in our games. We have to control it by playing better.” Ahead of the match against Leverkusen, the manger said that this is the first chance to eliminate the random factor from Barça’s game plan.