Speaking at a press conference before the League game against Athletic Bilbao, Josep Guardiola had words of praise for the opponent team. “Athletic is a sensation of Europe and deserves admiration from the whole world,” said Pep. Guardiola talked a lot about football and Saturday’s opponents, more than about his future, polemics from Madrid, Mourinho, or Milan. The Barcelona coach once again underlined his great respect for Marcelo Bielsa and his team.
“I’ve never seen a team that create spaces like they do on the pitch, with so many players running towards goal, everyone’s involved, forwards, midfielders and wingers,” said the Catalan coach, who also underlined that Athletic “never gives up,” they are strong and “educated to believe that they can do more.”
Talking about the game at the Camp Nou itself, Guardiola stated that it “will be beautiful” and open until the final whistle. This requires a lot of effort and energy from the players, who will have a very important Champions League game against Milan in just a few days. “If we want to be champions of the League, the Cup, or Europe, we have to overcome these circumstances,” underlined Guardiola, who added that “overcoming them is the only way, bearing in mind possible difficulties. We have to look forward and take another step.”
Barcelona’s coach doesn’t treat the game against Bielsa’s team as a challenge to prove who is the better coach, “I think he’s the best and believe me it’s a pleasure for me to go up against him,” assured the Catalan. “He uses methods of work which are rarely seen nowadays,” continued Guardiola, describing Bielsa’s work at Bilbao. “They usually play with the same players. The matches I’ve seen are a pleasure for the spectator. It’ll be a really tough game, very demanding for the players, but good to watch.”
Pep also mentioned Raúl González (Schalke 04) who scored two goals against Athletic in their Europa League quarter-final game on Thursday: “he is the best Spanish player in the last years, perhaps of all time. I would like to congratulate him. Raúl is an example for all kids who start playing.”
Guardiola also clarified the controversy about the pitch at the San Siro. The coach explained that Barcelona didn’t present a complaint to UEFA about the turf condition. “All we’ve done was complain because the field was not watered,” despite both clubs agreeing ahead of time about this condition. “It was very difficult to play because the grass was very, very, very bad,” said Pep.
Sources: fcbarcelona.com, La Vanguardia; Picture credit: David Ramos/Getty Images