Luis Enrique believes Pep Guardiola could have a surprise or two in store for Barcelona when the Bayern Munich coach returns to the Camp Nou for the first time in Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg. Guardiola, a teammate of Enrique at Barcelona in the late 1990s and his predecessor in charge of the B team, led the Catalans to two Champions League titles before taking a sabbatical and reemerging at Bayern two years ago. Now he returns looking to prevent Barcelona from reaching their first final in the competition since his departure. And, acknowledging that the two men know each other well, Enrique believes that Guardiola may have something special lined up at the place he long called home.
“I’ve been following Bayern and knowing Pep as I do, he may have a surprise or two up his sleeve to throw us off guard,” he said, reports Spanish sports daily AS. “But through the current season we have been resolving matches and overcoming obstacles that our rivals have put in our way, so we’ll be trying to do the same... even if it’s Pep who we are up against.”
Barcelona have been in sensational form of late, winning their last two matches by a combined score of 14-0 to maintain their grip on the top of La Liga. And with the Copa del Rey final still to come, Barcelona remain on course to repeat the treble Guardiola’s Barcelona claimed in his first season in charge.
“I love that word [treble], but we professionals know that you can easily go from having the chance to win three trophies to winning none at all,” Enrique said. “We are in the right conditions to achieve it, but you can’t sell the animal skin until you’ve caught the bear, as they say. First we have to reach the final.”
Guardiola’s chances of a treble with Bayern Munich were dashed last week by a defeat on penalties to Borussia Dortmund in the semifinals of the DFB-Pokal. The loss also came at cost of losing key attacker Arjen Robben to injury for the rest of the season, while striker Robert Lewandowski suffered a broken jaw and nose that means he remains a doubt to start at the Camp Nou. Franck Ribery, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber are already ruled out, although Javi Martínez made his return from nine months out at the weekend.
It is still an ominous task for the recently crowned German champions against a team fueled by the phenomenal forward trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar. Even Guardiola has conceded that it is all but impossible to stop his former pupil Messi in full flight. But the Bayern coach insists he will be doing everything he can to mastermind a victory, and certainly won’t be getting caught up in the sentiment of the occasion.
“It's wonderful to be back,” he said, according to Uefa.com. “I have lots of memories. Obviously it's very special for me because I was at this club for many years. Now I am with Bayern and I am here for the match tomorrow. That's my job and I have to do my best. This is a Champions League semi-final with two of the best teams in Europe. It won't be easy but it wasn't easy getting here. I am delighted to be here for this semi-final with a great chance to get to Berlin.
“I sat here for four years and this is my first time back. I knew that if I coached big clubs there was a possibility of coming back. I am not here for a testimonial but to do my job. I want us to play well here and in Munich.”
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1