Guardiola during today's press conference / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

“Our success is that we’re fighting to be in our fifth consecutive Champions League semifinal. It shows that we’ve done a good job. I’m very proud,” said Josep Guardiola after the training session at the Camp Nou in the pre-match press conference. The FC Barcelona manager said that “when you get this far in the competition all the games are vital. The prospect of staying in the Champions League is very exiting for us.” Guardiola is clear that “the situation is simple. Whoever wins will go through to the semifinals. I perceive that Milan will score. They have the capacity to do it. That’s what I’ve told my players. In these last couple of days we’ve been working on the way to create as many goalscoring opportunities as possible in order to score as many goals as possible. We have to find the way to attack their extremely strong defence, I have faith that we’ll find a way through.”

The Barça manager anticipates the return leg of the Champions League to be feature goals. “Milan is comfortable playing with a 0-0. We need to play with a lot of intensity and find the best way to attack them. We aren’t able to defend a result for a long time,” explained Guardiola. The Catalan didn’t shy away from lauding AC Milan: “Milan is a team with the capacity to dominate matches. When they play games where they are the ones being dominated, they defend really well in their area and they are very strong on the counter. They can send us out of the competition. They’re leaders of the Italian League and they have fantastic players.”

The importance of positional play

For Guardiola the most important aspects of tomorrow’s match are “Barça’s positional play and creating imbalance in certain areas of the field.” He added that “we have to play on the wings, we can do it with static players and with attacking players. We’ll see.”

The Barça manager warned of Ibrahimovic’s capacity to dominate aerial balls: “when he receives balls in the air, he’s superior to us. We consider it a lost play. We’ll try to stop him from participating in the match and force him to play as far away from our area as possible.” When asked by an Italian journalist on Messi’s capacity to score on Italian sides, the manager responded said that “Messi can’t beat a defence made up of eight or nine players by himself. We have to work as a team. But don’t joke about Messi, don’t provoke him.”

“We’ll give it our all”

With or without Xavi, who is dealing with a calf injury, “the team will go out onto the pitch with 11 players and they’ll give it their all, don’t doubt that.” Guardiola confirmed that the pitch is in optimal conditions ahead of tomorrow’s match. He finished by saying that games like tomorrow’s make him feel privileged: “these games make me very happy. We’ve played almost everything, but games like this remind me of my first day. I feel lucky and privileged.”

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