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‘They can’t be trusted’

Guardiola voices ‘huge respect’ for Bayern

Barcelona are pursuing a historic treble of the domestic double and the Champions League this term, seeking to emulate an exclusive club numbering only Manchester United (1999), PSV Eindhoven (1988), Ajax (1972) and Celtic (1967). Even more importantly for the Catalans, it would strike a huge prestige blow against arch-rivals Real Madrid.

The quest for the treble is backed by an attack which has plundered 125 goals in 46 matches, allied to the best defence in Spain with just 24 goals against in 29 league games. “Barça are coming very, very close to footballing perfection,” enthused El Periódico this week. Club president Joan Laporta described his men’s flair and skill at a time of economic crisis “the best anti-depressant there is.”

Guardiola’s steady hand

Josep Guardiola, who became head coach last summer, is credited with the revival in Barca’s fortunes. “Pep” embodies the spirit of the club like no other, starting out as a ball-boy at Camp Nou, becoming a member of Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team” in the 90s, and serving for years as club captain. As a coach, he has now assembled a record-breaking team.

The quality is not confined to world-class strike trio Messi, Eto’o and Henry. “Even bad strikers would score in this team,” admits Eto'o. The play is orchestrated by midfield maestro Xavi, a master at changing the pace of a match. Alongside crowd hero Andrés Iniesta, Xavi ensures his side remain 100 percent in control. “Possession is key to the way Barca play,” El Periódico noted.

Respect for Bayern

For all their strengths, the Catalans are more than wary of their German opponents. “We have huge respect for Bayern. You simply can’t trust them,” Guardiola admonished. That attitude has not been affected by Bayern’s heavy defeat in Wolfsburg at the weekend. “There couldn’t have been a worse result for us,” the coach insisted, “after losing 5-1, Bayern will be aggressive and totally motivated. They’ll be desperate to make amends.”