Pep Guardiola. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ (FCB).

“I had a better time in the second half, [however] we played better in the first.” These were the first words of Josep Guardiola after his team put in a good showing against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the Champions League. In the first half Barça corralled Bayer Leverkusen in their own half and in the second, much more open than the first, the Catalans finished off the game (1-3).

The second half allowed the manager to encourage his team to not lose focus ahead of the return leg: “the second half should be a lesson to us for the return leg. The Germans have a great virtue, they only need half a chance to put you in a bind. Their faith is indestructible.”

Three goals away from home

Guardiola highlighted his team’s attitude: “scoring three goals away from home is great, the guys behaved themselves like they always do. We took a step towards the quarterfinal draw.” The manager said that he wasn’t surprised by the chances Leverkusen created in the second half. “I can’t expect to come here and not concede goalscoring chances. We also created quite a few chances in the second half,” said Guardiola.

The manager said he has a good feeling about the team after tonight’s match at the BayArena: “I have the perception that since we were on such good form before it makes us seem merely regular now, but we’re OK. These guys are artists when it comes to competing.”

“Piqué is untouchable”

When asked about specific players, the manager was very clear about Messi and Piqué. On the Argentine, Guardiola said, “he continues to demonstrate a certain fortitude that’s vital for us. He’s the best and we’re fortunate to have him.” On the defender, one of the four players that didn’t suit up tonight, the manager said, “on Saturday we don’t have Mascherano or Alves, I couldn’t afford to lose Gerard. I called up Bartra because we needed him and I wanted him to be on the bench. Piqué knows that I have lots of love for him. For us, he’s untouchable.”

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