Guardiola gunning for triumphant return to Nou Camp with Bayern
Pep Guardiola will return to the Nou Camp to face the club he guided to an incredible 14 major trophies during a four-year spell, as his former employers Barcelona host recently-crowned Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in their Champions League semi-final first leg encounter.
In 2009 and 2011, the highly successful Spanish coach guided the Blaugrana to clinical Champions League victories, comprehensively overcoming Premier League outfit Manchester United in both finals.
However, this season Guardiola must dispatch his previous club, while putting past loyalties and bonds aside, to secure the German champions their sixth European Cup victory. His domestically dominant side are a possibly surprising 4/1 chance to topple their Spanish counterparts on the road.
Three-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi was the key component in Guardiola’s trophy-laden Barcelona squad, and formed a close relationship with the Spaniard, but the Argentine attacker has insisted he no longer shares a bond with his former mentor.
“We had a great time when Pep was here. We won a lot of titles and I grew a lot – that was the time when I grew most as a footballer,” stated Messi.
“We had a fantastic relationship when he was here. I have seen him a few times since he left, but we don’t have any kind of relationship now.”
Guardiola led the Catalan giants to three consecutive La Liga titles during his incredible reign at the Nou Camp while, also cementing their place in history as one of the most dominant teams ever assembled in Europe, and he is sure to use his inside knowledge to benefit Bayern.
“Guardiola knows us, he knows us all well. We were lucky enough to win a lot of titles with him. Based on what Guardiola meant to the club in his time as coach, I think he will get a good welcome,” continued Messi.
Bayern may have frontman Robert Lewandowski available despite suffering a broken nose, with the prolific Pole set to don a Batman-like carbon mask to prevent further injury, but he will be without Dutch sidekick Arjen Robben, who endured another troublesome knock on his recent return to action. Meanwhile, the hosts possess a clean bill of health with Luis Enqrique set to have a full squad to choose form.
The visitors will face a daunting task in front of a capacity Nou Camp crowd, with the La Liga leaders having been on a rampant run of freescoring form this calendar year, especially in Europe’s elite club competition (13/5 to win and both teams to net).
Messi has again starred this term, but this time out has deadly South American duo Neymar and Luis Suarez in support. Last summer’s World Cup Golden Ball winner is 15/8 to strike against Munich, having bagged a Bayern brace in 2009, and his side to secure victory on home soil.
At the other end, Munich marksman Thomas Muller will be aiming to add to his impressive season tally of 25, and he is 10/1 to continue his ferocious form with another goal in a first leg victory for his side.