At a press conference before the much-awaited clash against Rubin Kazan on Wednesday, FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was all praise for the Russian champions, saying that he has “seen very few teams that can defend so well”. After the club’s surprise loss to Rubin Kazan at Camp Nou last year and a goalless draw at Centralny Stadium, Guardiola said that he is expecting a “terribly tough game” this time around too. “Those games showed us what a good team they are,” said Guardiola. “They took five out of 6 points away from us, they are that good.”
The opponents are now more familiar to the Catalan club’s coaching staff and Guardiola suggested that the team’s attacking play would have to be top notch if they want to overcome the resilient defence of Rubin Kazan. “To beat them our passing will need to be very sharp and we will have to take our chances, otherwise it’s possible we won’t win again,” he said. Talking about Kazan’s strategy for the game, Guardiola said that he expects “it to be very similar to last season.” “It’s the same structure, with a few changes, as we saw in Copenhagen,” he said. “Although they’ve lost ‘Chori’ Domínguez, they have signed some top quality players.”
Guardiola was full of gratitude for Kurban Berdyev, the Russian team’s manager, who hailed FC Barcelona as “the best team in the world” at a press conference earlier. But demonstrating alertness and a sense of humour, Guardiola said that Berdyev had echoed the statement last year too and managed to not lose to his side.
A press conference without the mention of Lionel Messi was obviously impossible and Guardiola was asked if his valuable asset would be fit enough to feature, given that he has been training with the squad. Guardiola replied, “First we’ll have to look at Leo’s ankle. He’ll train, and then we’ll speak to him and the doctors and then we’ll decide. It’s a very important match, but his fitness is what matters most.”
Guardiola was also confident with his team’s performance in the last four games and at the training sessions. “You always have to be careful,” he said. “But I’m feeling nicely confident … the recent spirit shows that the players are assimilating new and old concepts … I think we’ll have a good year. The symptoms are good.”