Pep Guardiola’s formidable managerial skills will be put to the test again when his stuttering Manchester City side visit his former club Barcelona in a top-of-the-bill Champions League clash on Wednesday.
Former Barca captain Guardiola, the Catalan club’s most decorated coach with 14 trophies in a scintillating four-year spell, is set for his latest emotional return to the Camp Nou.
He has been there as a visiting coach before when his Bayern Munich side lost 3-0 in a Champions League semi-final last year and now he faces an equally daunting task with City.
Guardiola’s brilliant start in England which saw him oversee ten consecutive wins in all competitions has given way to a run of three games without victory, the latest seeing City miss two penalties in a 1-1 draw at home to Everton on Saturday.
The Premier League leaders trail Group C pace-setters Barca by two points following a thrilling 3-3 draw at Celtic in their last Champions League outing but Guardiola said he would not settle for another draw against his former club.
“We have four games left and we need to win two of them, make six points, to be in the next round. And we are going to try to win the first points in our next game for sure,” Guardiola said on Saturday.
The Catalans are unbeaten at the Camp Nou in the Champions League since 2013 but attacking idealogue Guardiola said his team would not stray from their usual style of play.
“We are going to play like we are. I know the way we want to play but, of course, we have to know exactly against which team we’re going to play. Not too many teams win there in recent years,” he added.
Barcelona are fourth in La Liga and cruised to a 4-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday, with substitute Lionel Messi scoring on his return from a groin injury that had kept him out for over three weeks.
“He will be difficult to stop, I know that from experience,” said City striker Sergio Aguero, Messi’s international team-mate with Argentina.
“All we can hope is that he has a bad day and our defence plays the game of its life. It’s that difficult because Leo is the best in the world.”
Barca coach Luis Enrique has also been boosted by the return of full-backs Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba to training, while Guardiola’s only major absence is Bacary Sagna.