Guardiola/ PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Josep Guardiola knows they’ve got a tough game ahead of them at La Romareda. “Undoubtedly we are facing Zaragoza in their best moment. They have found good form and have beaten teams like Atlético Madrid and Valencia. I’ve watched them and they’re very intense. It will be a tough game because there’s a lot to play for. Let’s see if we can recover from last week’s exertions and deal with the next three games.”

A team that believes in itself

As the manager observed, from being twelve points away from survival, they are now just four, and “with eight or nine games left until the end of the competition, the games against teams near the bottom of the table are the most difficult there are … I think they have a good chance of staying up, and that makes them even more dangerous.” He considers Zaragoza to be a good example of a team that believes in itself, and “as long as there is a still a chance, they’ll always keep fighting”.

Gerard Piqué will be missing on Saturday, as he is still suffering from a thigh injury. Neither is it clear whether Xavi will be in the right condition to play. “Xavi has done well in training. He’ll play when he’s ready. It’s the kind of thing that happens to him now and again through tiredness. We’ll decide what to do tomorrow” said Guardiola.

He was asked whether certain players suffer more than others at this stage of the season, and answered that “there are some that have the capacity to tolerate games and the effort involved more than others. With others you have to evaluate the effort they are making more. When you’re playing three games a week, you have to be especially careful with certain players.”

Chelsea experience

Guardiola also spoke about the club they will be meeting in the semi finals of the Champions league, Chelsea, saying that “they are one of the historic teams in English football of late. They are a very experienced team, and they have fantastic players in every sense. They’re one of the great European teams, and in short competitions they are capable of everything and more. Of course, in the Champions League semi finals there are no easy teams.”

But for the time being he prefers to concentrate on domestic matters. “There will be time to think about Chelsea later. We now have a very intense week against three intense opponents, uncomfortable, defensive teams, and we’ll need to be alert. Always playing attacking football creates fatigue, more than you might think. We have to see what condition we are in. After that, it’ll be my pleasure to talk about Chelsea.”

Mourinho has said that he’s sure Barça will qualify for the Champions League final. The Barça manager replied that “I’m grateful for his confidence, but all four of the teams have a chance of getting through”.

Finally, he was asked to comment on Barça only having two days’ rest before the clásico against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. “That’s what we’ve got” sighed Guardiola. “Bilbao have already given us a lesson in how to deal with this fixture list. At this stage of the season, you don’t feel the tiredness so much because the end is in sight. Every bit of effort and dedication we have will go into winning titles.”

Afellay developing well

Josep Guardiola is happy with the way Afellay is progressing. The Dutchman is training normally, although he has yet to be given medical clearance to play. But the FCB manager thinks there’s even a chance he could be back before the season is out. “I think so” he said. “I think he will because he’s doing well in training. We’re happy to have him back and that he’s doing so well. The surgery has gone even better than we’d hoped.”