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Josep Guardiola

The Barça manager knows that a win in the Czech Republic “would mean we would have definitely qualified with two games in hand in a competition that will start again in February.” He feels that the chance they have at the Eden Stadium “should not be wasted.” He then added that “after that, against Milan and Bate, we’ll try to finish top of the group.”

In a similar vein, Barça will hope to do at Viktoria Plzen something they have never done under Guardiola – win the fourth game in the group stage and also do the double over the team that they meet in back-to-back matches in the middle of the schedule. “We have always found things harder in Europe than anywhere else and we have to take this chance. Qualifying is the main objective, and the sooner you have these things sorted, the better” he insisted.

Good test

Barça’s manager then said that Viktoria Plzen is one of the teams “that had us on the run the most,” but admitted that already having played them once made it a lot easier to prepare for this match. Guardiola said that “it helped to interpret the possibilities that we have ahead of us … The teams are stronger in Europe, they’re more physical, more powerful and I suspect tomorrow will be no exception. We have always struggled against teams from the north. This game will be one more test of what we need to do to move onward, to play better, more consistently, and to become a better and better team.”

200 games in charge

Tuesday’s game will be Guardiola’s 200th as Barça manager: “I am proud to have been here so long. I am proud to have trained these players, from the first to the last. They have made me better as a manager. When you win 12 titles out of 15, it’s because you haven’t lost many games.”

But he says it’s too early for evaluations: “While you’re still here, it’s not a good idea to look back at such a long process. There are times when things went wrong and they were difficult. Of course I’m proud to have been here so long, to have had some good games and to have made people happy. When I’m not here any more there will be more time to think about what has happened.”

As for Xavi missing the recent game with Granada, Guardiola pointed out that “two years ago, in Villarreal, he was worse than he was the other day and he played … He’s not injured, but his soleus is suffering from fatigue and is causing him some trouble. He’s got better. We’ll look at him in training and decide tomorrow”.

Alexis, “a bad patient”

Finally, he was asked why Alexis Sánchez was in the team when he had not yet been declared fit. The boss said it was “so that he can be with the rest of his team mates … Alex is a bad patient. He is very good at what he does but he really doesn’t need to be out of action for so long. The way he plays is the way he lives. It was a very serious injury, and he’s been out for two months …. We don’t want him to get hurt again but his recovery is very positive.”

Third Keeper

Josep Guardiola explained that he has picked a third goalkeeper in his squad, Oier to accompany Valdés and Pinto simply because he doesn’t want any nasty shocks on European road trips.

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