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Guardiola demands something special from Barcelona against Manchester United


Head coach Josep Guardiola of Barcelona

Head coach Josep Guardiola of Barcelona

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

Head coach Josep Guardiola of Barcelona

Pep Guardiola has warned his players that they will have to play better than they did two years ago to win tonight's Champions League final.

The Barcelona coach spoke of lapses in intensity and mistakes made two years ago that he feels Manchester United will better punish this time as the two repeat the Rome final.

Guardiola said: “If we play the same way we did in 2009 then it will probably not be enough. And if we repeat certain things that we did in that game then we will not win this one.”

Asked what aspect of United's play he was most concerned about he replied: “Everything. I am worried about everything. Ferdinand coming out with the ball from the back, the talent they have in midfield, Valencia and Nani on the wings and the players they have up front with Rooney and Chicarito. We have to be concerned about everything.”

The Barcelona boss and his players have spoken regularly in the build-up to the final about Javier Hernandez and Guardiola clearly sees the Mexican as a threat to a defence that will probably have Javier Mascherano alongside Gerard Pique.

He said: “He is the huge surprise of the season. He arrives with such great timing into the area. His running into space is excellent and he can also run the channels with the ball at his feet. United have brought a very big player and someone who is going to be great for them for many years to come.”

“Ferguson said there were four or five different teams he could play. That shows how much talent is in that team.

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“Strong points, they've got a lot of them. Weak points, they've got a lot of them too. They have fantastic players, they're powerful, one of the most complete teams I've seen in all senses.”

The Barca coach was asked about comments made yesterday by Johan Cruyff that he would not be surprised to see Guardiola walk away from the club after the final such has been the pressure placed on him this season.

Cruyff said: “Guardiola has worked very hard in these three years and it would not surprise me if he went after this game regardless of the result in the final.”

The Barcelona coach's slightly evasive answer was: “It is a privilege to lead this club in finals like this one against such a historic opponent. I have a contract for another year and it is not the time to speak about this now.”

Carles Puyol, who is expected to start at left back tonight said it was vital that his manager decided to stay at the club.

“He is the best coach in the world and I want him to stay for many years. It will be the best for the club,” said the defender who plays his third final in his third different starting position.

Guardiola was asked about Ferguson's assertion that this would be the 'final of the decade' and said that could be decided only after the game.

“People can talk about it being the final of the decade but we have to prove that by playing the final of the decade. We have to prove it and that will be our intention.

“I hope for the rest of the world they will look back at it like that. Three finals in four years for them and three in five for us it is clear that it is an extraordinary final. We are up against one of the most historic clubs in the world.

“People are always asking about the best team in history but you cannot make comparisons. There have been many great teams. I never saw the Madrid of Alfredo Di Stefano for example. If people in the future talk about us saying: 'I saw them play' that will be enough.”

Guardiola has always denied being close to signing for United when he left Barcelona, yesterday he admitting the possibility existed.

“Sir Alex made the right decision not to sign me,” he said, “I was on the way down at the time.”

He revealed he had already decided upon his starting XI, confirming that both captain Puyol and fellow defender Eric Abidal were fit if selected.

“There are obviously factors, variables,” he added.

Both sides know each other almost too well, having squared off in the 2008 semi-finals as well as the following year's final.

But Victor Valdes claimed Barcelona and Manchester United had both improved since 2009.

Few would argue that Barca have gone from strength to strength since outplaying United in Rome, but this season's United team have been branded less than vintage despite winning the Barclays Premier League and comfortably reaching Wembley.

But Barca goalkeeper Valdes said: “Both the teams have improved a great deal. We are more mature.

“Manchester has more power offensively than we have.

“Maybe we can find a more offensive Manchester than in Rome.”

Routes to the final

Manchester Utd

Group Stages

September 14: Manchester Utd 0 Rangers 0

September 29: Valencia 0 |Manchester Utd 1

October 20: Manchester Utd 1 |Bursaspor 0

November 2: Bursaspor 0 |Manchester Utd 3

November 24: Rangers 0 |Manchester Utd 1

December 7: Manchester Utd 1 Valencia 1

Round of 16

February 23: Marseille 0 |Manchester Utd 0

March 15: Manchester Utd 2 |Marseille 1


April 6: Chelsea 0 Manchester Utd 1

April 12: Manchester Utd 2 Chelsea 1


April 26: Schalke 0 Manchester Utd 2

May 4: Manchester Utd 4 Schalke 1


Group Stages

September 14: Barcelona 5 |Panathinaikos 1

September 29: Rubin Kazan 1 Barcelona 1

October 20: Barcelona 2 |Copenhagen 0

November 2: Copenhagen 1 Barcelona 1

November 24: Panathinaikos 0 Barcelona 3

December 7: Barcelona 2 |Rubin Kazan 0

Round of 16

February 16: Arsenal 2 |Barcelona 1

March 8: Barcelona 3 Arsenal 1


April 6: Barcelona 5 Shakhtar 1

April 12: Shakhtar 0 Barcelona 1


April 27: Real Madrid 0 |Barcelona 2

May 3: Barcelona 1 Real Madrid 1

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