FC Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola spoke in his usual diplomatic manner when he gave a press conference before the Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal clash away to AC Milan. He spoke about the team’s chances and possible approach while giving a nod to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s quality in the Milan side. The Barcelona manager believes he will face one of the best teams in this season’s competition.
Acknowledging the Milan home stadium as a great and historical one, Pep asked Barcelona to prepare itself for two quality performances and to come out with a positive result. “San Siro is one of the great stadiums in European football and AC Milan is one of the best teams in the world. In the quarter-finals of a competition like this, with an opponent like this one, you must be aware that you have to play two excellent games or you won’t go through,” Guardiola said.
When asked about his team’s possible approaches to handle Ibrahimovic, the 41-year-old hinted at a possession game that could nullify the big Swede. “They dominate long passes, thanks to Ibrahimovic, who has a lot of solutions. He’s an important player for them. When he receives the ball, the whole offensive mechanism of the team snaps into play. He’s unbeatable in the air. We must try to deactivate him and AC Milan through ball possession.”
Much like the 2009-2010 edition of the competition, where Barcelona bowed out to a different Milan side that it encountered in the group stage, Pep reminded everyone that the previous matches against AC Milan should not give any ground to an assumption that Barcelona will qualify for the semi-finals. “It didn’t go too badly. There’s somewhat of a bad memory of how we played here. It’s true that during certain periods of the game they had more chances than we would have liked, but we can not forget that they have a team that can create chances. We also created quite a few chances that day.”
With this week being one of the most important weeks of the season, Pep asked the team to get by one match at a time, to not think about the treble and to stay focused. “I don’t look beyond the match against Milan. The year we won the treble I never thought about it. If we don’t win on Tuesday or on Saturday, we can say goodbye to two titles.” So, Pep reminds the team, “We have to take this one step at a time.”
Image: Giuseppe Cacace – AFP