Guardiola: I'm 'struggling' to come up with a plan to beat Chelsea
Published 11:00 18/04/12 By MirrorFootball
Pep Guardiola last night lavished praise on Chelsea's ageing stars and claimed he is struggling to formulate a plan to see off the Blues and earn his Barcelona team a place in their eighth European Cup final.
Chelsea face their biggest task of the season tonight when they host Guardiola's all-conquering side in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
Upon taking charge at Stamford Bridge last summer, Andre Villas-Boas embarked on a new project which centred on fazing out Chelsea's veterans such as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba and introduce a new crop of hungry young stars in their place.
Unfortunately for the Portuguese, the move backfired, with Villas-Boas leaving the club last month after a dreadful run of form and reports of disharmony within the Stamford Bridge dressing room.
His successor Roberto Di Matteo has turned to Chelsea's trusted lieutenants since the 34-year-old's departure and the move has worked, with Chelsea winning nine of the Italian's 12 games in charge.
Many claim the likes of Lampard (33), Drogba (34) and even John Terry (31) are on the wane, but Guardiola disagrees.
"I do admire that generation of players," Guardiola said.
"They have done so well over the last seven years and have got into so many semi-finals and finals, and competed in the Premier League so well.
"That's not easy, so I do admire what they have achieved. It will be exciting to play them."
Despite being four points behind leaders Real Madrid, Barcelona have played some of the best football the world has ever seen this year and with the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and, of course, Lionel Messi, it is easy to see why they are overwhelming favourites to progress.
But Chelsea's recent resurgence under Di Matteo has left Guardiola with much to worry about, it seems.
Guardiola added: "They have John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba ... They are players who have had thousands and thousands of adventures.
"Maybe they do not have the consistency in the league but in competitions like this they are one of the best teams in the world.
"I saw what they did against Tottenham," Guardiola added, referring to Chelsea's 5-1 win over their rivals at Wembley on Sunday.
"Everyone wants to beat Barcelona and play well against us, because we are the current holders but I am struggling to see how we are going to hurt them and how we are going to create chances to score goals."
Guardiola's last visit to Stamford Bridge ended in success after Andres Iniesta fired home a 93rd minute away goal to take his team through to the Champions League final for the first time in his reign.
Barca went on to win the competition, and a remarkable 12 more pieces of silverware have followed under the stewardship of their former midfield maestro.
Such an accomplishment has naturally led to huge acclaim for Guardiola, with Chelsea reported to be among his interested suitors.
But the Barca boss, whose contract expires this summer, last night dismissed the idea he could swap the Nou Camp for Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, however.
He said: "It's fantasy. Hypothetical. I'm coach of Barcelona. Chelsea have a very good manager because, in the last 10 games, they've made unbelievable results.
"It's not the time to be talking about that. I'm here as Barcelona manager. Chelsea have a manager."