City outclass Gladbach in dominant display

Luis Enrique says Barcelona focused on beating Bayern, not Pep Guardiola


Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said his team were setting out to beat Bayern Munich, not former boss Pep Guardiola, in Tuesday's Champions League semifinal first leg at the Camp Nou.

Seven of Barca's likely starting XI for the game will know current Bayern boss Guardiola well -- having been part of the 'Pep team' that won a phenomenal 14 trophies in his four seasons on the bench from 2008-09 to 2011-12.

The two opposing coaches are also firm friends, having been teammates for years with both Barcelona and Spain, and later working together for three seasons when Guardiola was first-team coach and Luis Enrique in charge of Barca B from 2008 to 2011.

The current Blaugrana coach said it would be a special occasion for many of the protagonists, but in the end the most important thing was for Barca to set themselves up to reach the competition's final.

"We are not setting out to beat Pep, we are playing against Bayern Munich to reach a final," Luis Enrique said. "He is my friend, and it will be nice for the players to see Pep again. But the game is about more than that.

"Of course it is special for Guardiola to return. But above that is to qualify for the final in a competition like the Champions League. The most important thing is the result."

Injuries to key Bayern players including Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber, and the tremendous form of Barca's trident Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, mean the Catalan side are warm favourites to progress.

Luis Enrique said he was sure Guardiola would have a coaching trick up his sleeve for the game, while maintaining it was a pity that the teams could not have met in June's final in Berlin.

"Bayern's squad is sufficiently strong so as not to be affected by the players who are missing," he said. "Seeing Bayern, and knowing Pep, we know there could be surprises that could make our lives difficult. Pep has picked up the good things that Bayern have, and added his stamp. I like Pep's Bayern. They are one of the best teams in Europe.

"We had agreed before in a joke to meet in Berlin, but now it will be impossible. We will see who can make it."

" style favoured by Guardiola by adding more physical and counter-attacking elements, he maintained that both teams would go out and try and dominate possession.

"I doubt Pep has many doubts about what we will do," he said. "He knows the players, he knows me as we were here together. There is just one ball, we both want it, now to see who can be most accurate and respond best to the situations of play. I believe it is one of the most attractive games you can see in today's European football."

The game also sees the return of La Masia graduate Thiago, who left Barca in summer 2013, when Bayern triggered the exit clause in his contract. Luis Enrique declined to feed any controversy over that decision, or the player's first game back at the Camp Nou.

"It is a decision Thiago took himself," he said. "I was not here so cannot really talk about it. Players want to triumph at Barca, but there is not always room for everyone, so it is normal some go elsewhere. He is a great player, and made his own decision."

Barca remain on course to achieve the treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey, which the club first won in Guardiola's debut season as coach. Luis Enrique said he was not worried by talk of repeating that feat this year, however, well aware they could end up disappointed by the season's end.

"I love the word 'treble' but us professionals know that from three you could end up with zero," he said. "We are in position to win all the trophies we set out for at start of season. But until [the animal] is caught you cannot sell the skin. Two teams will make the Champions League final, and we want to be one of them."

The Asturian would not be drawn on what this game might mean for his long term future, with presidential elections due this summer which might see a new regime at the Camp Nou next season.

"I am not concerned with anything that is not the immediate future -- the next two days," Luis Enrique said. "I just look at what I can control. All I, and Barca fans, am interested in is tomorrow's game."

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