Tuesday March 27 2012
Guardiola: 'Milan among the best'

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola believes Milan are “among the best teams in the world and will play to win. If we don’t perform, we won’t qualify.”

The Champions League quarter-final first leg is on Wednesday evening and Barça are the favourites, partly thanks to an injury crisis in the Rossoneri camp.

“I expect the best possible Milan, as they have many options and will play to win. They are among the best teams in the world and have some excellent players, like Zlatan Ibrahimovic,” said Guardiola.

Ibra famously clashed with Guardiola during their time together at Barcelona and after a certain point were no longer on speaking terms.

“Ibra had an extraordinary year in Barcelona, helping us in the Liga and the Champions League. Without him we would not have achieved everything we did. He has always done well in every club and I have fond memories of his time at Barça.

“It will not be Ibrahimovic against Barcelona, as we are playing against Milan, the club with the most international trophies in the world. Coming to play at San Siro is an honour.

“If we don’t perform against Milan in the quarter-finals, we won’t qualify. We know that we must do our best, aware that we might or might not go through to the next round, so it is a big test for us.

“Both these sides have great champions, so the team with the most psychological strength over the two legs will qualify. We want to take control of the game and hold on to it in every moment, but it is understandable to go out against Milan.”

These clubs have already clashed twice this season in the group phase, resulting in a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou and a 3-2 Barcelona victory at San Siro.

“This is a great stadium and a wonderful football environment. I am happy to be back in Italy for this challenge. The match on March 2 was very enjoyable, as both sides really pushed to win that night. It’s totally unrealistic to think Milan won’t have scoring opportunities.

“How will we defend? Put seven players on the line, piled up so they go up to the crossbar! Aside from playing with three or four defenders, we have to read our opponents and I think we already know them fairly well. Our main objective is to score, because we know how important an away goal can be.”

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