Guardiola during the game against Osasuna / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Josep Guardiola evaluated his team’s performance, in which Barça comfortably beat Osasuna 4-0, in the first game of the new year in a positive manner. Despite recognizing that the result in the away game of the last 16 King’s Cup tie is “a very good step forward,” the manager cautioned that “we still need to go to Pamplona.” He added, “in general terms we played an excellent game and we’ve made a positive step forward in the playoff. But it’s not decided yet, because we must go play in Pamplona. We still have the memory of the 5-0 over Betis and then suffering in the return leg fresh in our minds. The tie will be over after we’ve played 90 minutes.”

Messi’s improvement

Despite being initially ruled out of tonight’s match, in the end, Messi recovered from his bout of flu and was able to participate. Messi, who played the final half hour of the match, put in an excellent performance and scored two goals. “This morning he had a stomach ache, he was in pain, cold and had a small fever, that’s why we decided that he should stay home. Afterward, he called and said he was feeling better. This morning we wanted to announce that he didn’t train and that he’d been ruled out. However, I left him on the bench, we hadn’t closed out the game and I decided to put him in for half an hour. We know that we’re a little bit better with Messi.”

Guardiola also talked about the final decision to not transplant the pitch at the stadium: “the pitch has been in bad condition since the beginning of the season, and we’ve been coping. We decided that enough was enough, that’s why we asked Osasuna to switch the order of the games. However, in the last couple of days the pitch has improved. You can tell by the color, the lack of peeling and it doesn’t come up as much. Hopefully it will improve further. We had no intention of bothering anyone (switching the order of the games), especially Osasuna. If the pitch had been terrible today, the machines would be rolling it up right now.”

Praise for Pinto

Finally, the Barça boss praised Pinto: “I don’t remember a game where he wasn’t prepared. His ball control with his feet wasn’t exactly brilliant, but with his perseverance he’s achieved the right level. He played an impeccable game, his footwork was sublime. He had patience and tranquility. He knows his role in the team and he never stops helping. That’s why we renew his contract year after year, because he deserves it.”

"Vital game" this Sunday

Focusing on the Liga game this Sunday against Espanyol, Guardiola said that the derby is always “complicated and difficult.” He added, “they have been doing things really well these past couple of years, they have an excellent manager, they have aggressive young players and they have game. What we must do is recuperate, because it’s a vital game for us and for the future of the league.”

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