Luis Enrique warns PSG that Lionel Messi is at his best

Barny 21/04/2015
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Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique praises Lionel Messi ahead of his side's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Paris Saint-Germain.


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Barcelona coach Luis Enrique fears Zlatan Ibrahimovic threat

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Known enemy: Ibrahimovic scored 21 goals in 45 games during one season for Barca.

Luis Enrique believes the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the Nou Camp gives Barcelona all the impetus they need to not get complacent against Paris Saint-Germain.

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Barca triumphed 3-1 in Paris last week but Enrique believes they could still be in danger if they take their foot off the gas in tonight’s second leg at the Nou Camp. Enrique specifically cited the return of former Barca striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic from suspension as a reason for vigilance. 

Ibrahimovic, 33, scored 21 goals in 45 games during a solitary season in Catalonia under Pep Guardiola in 2009/10 but never adapted to Barca’s style of play and left under a considerable cloud, later mocking Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Lionel Messi in his autobigraphy.

Enrique said: “Ibrahimovic is a different type of striker, who is capable of scoring from anywhere. He connects with his team-mates very well and is one of the best forwards in the world today. He is no stranger to us and gives us an extra reason to play well.

Enrique has the luxury of a full squad to choose from with Dani Alves back from missing last week’s first leg through suspension, while Iniesta has been passed fit after suffering pelvic bruising in Paris and subsequently sitting out Barca’s weekend league win over Valencia.

The match-winning hero last week was Luis Suarez, who scored two brilliant goals at the Parc des Princes and then continued his hot streak with the opener in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Valencia. With five goals in his last four games, Suarez believes he is in the best form of his Barca career to date, but also admits he was not happy with his early performances.

“I am very self-critical and for a while I felt I wasn’t helping the team,” he said. “But everyone gave me support and that gave me the strength to go forward. I went a long time without playing at first and it took me a while, but now I feel I am contributing.” 

PSG will be without Thiago Silva and Thiago Motta through injury, but key midfielder Marco Verratti joins Ibrahimovic in returning from suspension.

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#360view: Pep Guardiola yet to match huge Bayern expectations

James Piercy 21/04/2015
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Guardiola's league record has been superb with Bayern.

In the last 25 years, Bayern Munich have won 13 Bundesligas and have never gone more than four years without lifting the Deutsche Meisterschale.

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Although not as prolific in the DFB Pokal, they have still claimed the trophy nine times during the same period – four times more than the next most successful club, Werder Bremen.

Since arriving at the Allianz Arena he has won both competitions and bar an almighty collapse, will successfully defend the Bundesliga over the next fortnight and face Borussia Dortmund in the cup semi-finals later this month.

In short, Guardiola is a little over par in his tenure as Bayern Munich boss. Which sounds ridiculous but the Catalan was brought to the club for much more than just what is expected of a Bayern coach.

At Barcelona he created perhaps the greatest club side the world has seen, permeated by an identity and method of playing that ran contrary to the overtly-physical approach dominating the game towards the end of the last decade.

Barca were rewarded for their excellence with 14 trophies during his reign including two Champions League titles – in 2009 and 2011 – and it is that crown the Bayern hierarchy, like at Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and so many others, crave the most.

Not because the Bundesliga has become a cakewalk, but because it’s the Champions League or European Cup which define eras and iconic sides.

Bayern have had their’s in the past: the 1974-1976 side of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Paul Breitner, Sepp Maier and Uli Hoeness which won three European Cups in succession. 

And while they’ve lifted ‘Old Big Ears’ in 2001 and 2013, it’s about sustained success on the continent and creating a new legend in helping establish themselves as the best football team on the planet, not just in Germany. So far, Guardiola has fallen a little short of expectations.

Tonight, to fulfil not just the desires of the Bayern board and fans but also his own, Guardiola’s side must become the first in club history to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit.

As Thomas Muller pointed out yesterday, 2-0 to Bayern is not such a big surprise, but they are up against a Porto side unbeaten in the competition and playing an exhilarating brand of free-flowing offensive football which has seen them go 15 matches since they last failed to score. One may be all it needs with away goals such a priceless commodity.

That would especially not be such a surprise, given how Bayern teams have defended under Guardiola in Europe.

In the first leg there were some dreadful errors – Dante in particular – and a total breakdown in the system as Porto’s pace cut through them.

It was eerily reminiscent of the second leg of last season’s semi-final against Madrid where they were ripped apart by the velocity of Real’s counter-attacks and Guardiola’s suicidal high line.

Twice losing 3-2 to Manchester City – at the Allianz last season and Etihad this term – also stand out, and for all their wonderful midfield interplay ala Barca, married with Teutonic steel and the attacking capabilities of Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski, Muller and friends, there remains a fragile core.

Guardiola needs a big result tonight. It’s extremely unlikely, verging on nigh impossible he’ll walk away if they didn’t progress tonight, but failure at a club like Bayern is simply unacceptable.

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