Guardiola: Barca to play canny game at Emirates

LONDON - A shared footballing philosophy does not guarantee a classic when Barcelona meet Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday, with the visitors likely to take a more pragmatic approach than their reputation may suggest.

Barca coach Pep Guardiola spoke on the eve of the quarter-final first leg with his usual enthusiasm about Arsene Wenger's achievements during his long tenure in the Arsenal job.

Guardiola sounded perfectly genuine as he envisaged a spectacle worthy of the reputations of two clubs renowned for attacking football played with pace and guile.

As usual, however, the devil was in the detail.

The 39-year-old Catalan, who masterminded Barcelona's European Cup success in his first season in charge, is not about to sacrifice the trophy in the pursuit of pure football.

VIDEO: Arsenal 2-4 Barcelona (Wembley, 1999)

"We will try to provide a good spectacle for the whole of Europe, against a team that has for years provided an example of how you can play good football," the softly-spoken coach told reporters.

"Mr Wenger is one of the best coaches in the world, someone who has changed the culture of his club. Everyone admires Arsenal and their style. It is an honour to play against them."

Asked for specifics on how Barcelona would approach the game, the coach gave what could turn out to be a better clue.

"We will have to be extremely alert, and to play closer together," he warned. "We need to be solid and compact when we don't have the ball."

Of course, Barcelona would seek an away goal, he said, only to add: "You cannot attack well if you don't defend well."


The big problem for Guardiola heading into the game is that influential midfielder Andre Iniesta is missing.

"He's a huge player for us," the coach said. "He's very important - someone who can play in different positions, is good one-on-one and a smart player who keeps the ball better than anyone."

Otherwise, Guardiola has few concerns.

Lionel Messi is in a state of grace, as the Spanish say, and his biggest problem may be whether to give former Arsenal forward Thierry Henry a place in the forward line with the Argentine and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Arsenal also have an injury concern over Cesc Fabregas and while Guardiola is full of admiration for a player who came through the Barcelona youth set-up, and looked up to the current coach as a major inspiration, he knows Arsenal are far from reliant on the dynamic young midfielder.

"I assume they are a better player with him," Guardiola said. "But remember, they beat Porto 5-0 without him."

Follow on Twitter
Join on Facebook