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Guardiola’s 'special' match

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There really was no escape. When Pep Guardiola entered the room for Tuesday afternoon’s press conference prior to the Champions League semi-final in Madrid he was surrounded by a posse of more than a dozen photographers and cameramen. Naturally Guardiola was the focus of attention, not merely because the game itself is so important, but also because it is his first return to Spain in an official capacity since taking over at Bayern.

Supervising Bayern in Madrid was definitely “special”, said the 43-year-old. However, the man who has been in charge at Munich for ten months was unwilling to waste too many words on the subject. As Karl-Heinz Rummenigge explained: “It’s obviously a special game for him as a Spaniard, but he’s totally relaxed.”

Instead, Guardiola wanted to talk about football. “Madrid are very, very strong opponents, the strongest in the semi-finals,” he declared prior to the first leg clash at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, one of the worlds great footballing temples and a place where Guardiola has never lost as a coach! His record with Barcelona in Madrid reads five victories and two draws in the Spanish league, the Copa del Rey, Supercopa and Champions League. His first match there as Barça coach ended in a 6–2 triumph.

Meticulous planning

“The stats are worthless,” Guardiola said dismissively before his eighth coaching trip to the Bernabéu, “it was a different time, a different team and a different club. It has nothing to do with this match. Both as a player and a coach, I’ve never come to the Bernabéu and felt like a favourite to win. I have too much respect for that. You always need a top performance to beat Real Madrid.”

Guardiola preparations for Wednesday’s match have been meticulously detailed. “PEP does it in a way I’ve never experienced before. Every detail is analysed, planned and thought through,” Matthias Sammer told Guardiola knows Real “like the back of his hand,” but that is no guarantee of success as the coach himself is not out on the field of play. “matches are won by the players,” declared Sammer. the minute the game kicks off the focus will switch exclusively to the 11 Bayern men out on the pitch.