Guardiola relishing Blues tie
Pep Guardiola insists it will be a 'privilege' to meet Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final.
By Richard Bailey
Last Updated: 19/04/09 1:22pm
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has declared that it will be a 'privilege' to meet Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League semi-final.
The Catalans are the only non-English side left in the competition as they look to win the Champions League for the second time in four seasons.
As a player Guardiola was the orchestrator of Johan Cruyff's all conquering Barcelona side of the early 1990s and the 38-year-old has drilled the club's football ethos from that era into his stars of today.
The method seems to have had the desired impact as Barca look set for a historic treble with the club top of the league, in the last four of the Champions League and in the final of the Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao.
The two clubs have history in Europe over the years, mostly sparked by former Blues boss Jose Mourinho, but their current manager has nothing but respect for the West Londoners.
"It is a privilege to be up against Chelsea," he told the Sunday Times.
"I mean it's a privilege for us to be up against a team as strong as them in the semi-final.
"Chelsea are a side who, but for one slip, we would be calling the reigning European champions.
"It's one of the games you want to go out to enjoy."
Guardiola believes that the reason behind the Premier League's dominance of the Champions League in recent years is down to its economic strength and its side's possessing the best managers.
"(It is) because their teams are all managed by head coaches who have fantastic experience in the game," he pointed out.
"And they are allowed to go about their work calmly and in a good professional environment.
"The relative economic strength of the English league has a lot to do with it, without any doubt.
"In the end, the clubs with the most money can sign the best players and end up with the strongest teams.
"All the English teams are very strong and any of the four of them, including Liverpool could have reached the semis.
"The clubs are well run and the coaches have the top players at their disposal. On top of everything else, the individuals work very hard and are extremely competitive."
Lack of competitiveness
But the Spaniard stops short at the reason given by Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas when he stated that the English club's dominance was down to the fact that they have the more competitive players.
"I don't think it's because of a lack of competitive players at Spanish clubs," he argued.
"Okay Madrid were beaten over the two games by Liverpool but in the first match it could have easily worked out differently if Madrid had been in a slightly better moment of form and Liverpool slightly worse.
"The margins are very small. At that level it really is details that decide matches.
"Yes the English league is strong but so is the Italian league and so is our league."