EXCLUSIVE: We won't let Chelsea beat us up
Published 22:31 14/04/12 By Anthony Clavane
Pep Guardiola has warned Chelsea that his brilliant Barcelona side won’t be bullied out of more Champions League glory.
The Catalan giants visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for the first leg of the semi-final – and Guardiola says the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Roberto Di Matteo’s side are expected to devise a physical strategy to cope with Lionel Messi and the magical midfield carousel of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
The brawn of John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Didier Drogba is likely to be used to out-muscle the best team in the world, by thwarting the Spaniards’ natural passing game and possession football.
“Am I worried by Chelsea’s physical approach? No, I’m not worried,” said Guardiola. “I’m used to it.
“We have the mentality to control this situation. It’s very important to have this mentality.
“My players here at Barcelona all know this situation. They also know that if they lose this semi-final – and then against Real Madrid on Saturday – we could end up with nothing.”
There has been bad blood between the sides since Barca’s controversial 2009 semi-final triumph over the west Londoners – a tie dominated by poor refereeing decisions.
Guardiola’s wonders have gone on to even greater things in the ensuing three years – winning the Champions League twice.
But the all-conquering 41-year-old coach, whom Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich is hoping to lure to the Bridge in the summer, admits it is now make or break time at the Nou Camp.
The visit to London is the beginning of a week that will define his season in Spain.
Guardiola said: “Tomorrow we travel to London to prepare for a very tough week.
“We’ve two days until Chelsea, then we must prepare for Real Madrid.
“But, you know, I’ve been here four years and we have to deal with all sorts of different conditions.
“We have to adapt to all sorts of situations. That’s what we’ve been learning to do in the four years I’ve been here.
“But now is the biggest test. We have games every three or four days. After Levante it’s Chelsea, then it’s Real Madrid, then Chelsea again.
“Chelsea are a very strong team physically, with a lot of experience.”
Guardiola also urged his team not to underestimate the Blues – and claimed that all the talk about Chelsea being underdogs was nonsense.
He said: “Chelsea have shown they are capable of anything and have fantastic players in every way.
“We will have to play a good tie to reach the Final. Chelsea can knock us out.”
Barca superstar Xavi reinforced his manager’s comments by warning team-mates they should show respect to Chelsea’s style of play.
He said: “The Terry type of players is necessary.
“We have Puyol here. Technically he is not the best player in the squad, but physically he is spectacular.
“In some ways, what these sort of players do has more merit because to me it comes naturally.”