PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

"San Mamés is always San Mamés and Athletic is always Athletic." Pep Guardiola has plenty of experience against the Basque side both as a player and as a manager.  And though a game in Bilbao has many attractions for the Barça manager, there is one that stands out above the rest.  This will be Guardiola's first managerial head-to-head with the experienced Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa, a man he admires greatly: "Bielsa's teams are authentic, different and unique.  The only way we can win in San Mamés is to show more courage than them."

Guardiola revealed that he has only met the current Athletic manager once before and didn't hesitate to express his "admiration for what he's doing and what he's done."

Good vibes in the squad

Guardiola also took the opportunity to describe the excellent mood in the changing room: "There's always been a good atmosphere and the players have always got on together fantastically."  However, he confirmed that this year it's even better: "There are people here who apart from getting on together, are very close friends.  Their behaviour is excellent."

Apart from the upcoming clash against Bilbao, Guardiola also commented on a couple of other issues that have attracted attention.  Earlier in the week, there was a story in the press that insisted that Spanish international striker David Villa was not happy at Barça.  Guardiola dismissed the rumours saying, "It's impossible to make an enemy of David.  He's much too nice a person, generous on the pitch and in his personal life."

There have also been a number of press reports originating from Barça's former Swedish international striker Ibrahimovic reflecting negatively on his time at the Club and in particular on his relationship with the manager.  Guardiola closed the matter in typically polite manner: "I've got nothing to say.  I don't want to make this a personal issue.  I'd just like to thank him for everything he gave us that year."

Ferguson celebrates 25th anniversary

Sir Alex Ferguson is celebrating his 25th anniversary as manager of Manchester United. Pep Guardiola today added his congratulations to Mr Ferguson on his long career with the Premier League club.  "I take my hat off to him.  I'd love to have his ability to re-build teams and to stay so, so competitive.  This is only within the reach of highly intuitive people who know what they want."