Guardiola: "I do not want to underestimate Almería"
Josep Guardiola is only thinking about FC Barcelona's game against Almería on Saturday instead of paying any attention to the encounter with Real Madrid the following week.
Barcelona (FCB).- El Clásico maybe gripping the media, but the Blaugrana boss is not interested in looking beyond his team's next match and that is the one that takes place at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos. "It is good for us to talk about Almería," Guardiola said. "We have not talked about the game this week due to the international games and we have not had that much to prepare for it. I do not want to underestimate Almería because the attitude taken towards opponents has been key in the success that we have had." Éric Abidal will be out of action and the coach added: "He has a slight bicep injury, but only a small thing. We do not want to risk losing him for longer though. In (Gerard) Piqué's case we will decide on the day if he will play or not."
Looking at Juan Manuel Lillo's Almería team Guardiola continued: "They have not conceded many goals and they are in the bottom half of the table due to the number of draws at home, where they have lost just once," he said. "They started with 3-4-3, then changed to 4-3-3 and then fielded five defenders against Athletic Club. You never know how they could play and that is an added difficulty for us."
Guardiola was then asked about his opposing number and was full of praise for Lillo. "Everyone knows how much I appreciate him," the trainer said. "He has been crucial in my education. Of all the coaches that I have learned from he has been very important. My gratitude towards him is infinite and he knows that, but I want to beat him and he wants to beat me."
All the talk recently been about el Clásico but Guardiola was keen to take the tension out of the build-up: "Nothing will happen," he said. "I recognise that the nerves are building in people, but it is best that this does not distract the team as we have had some good results recently. Now we have the Almería game and then a Champions League match. From Thursday on we will be able to think about the virtues of a marvellous Real Madrid team and how we can counteract them."
Barça will meet Athletic Club in the next round of the Copa del Rey and the boss is relishing the test. "It will be tough and marvellous," he commented. "In order to reach the final we will have to beat Athletic on the way in what will be the toughest tie. Each game against them is intense. I do not know where we will be at Christmas, but I know it will be hard."
Ibrahim Afellay's move from PSV to Barça is expected to be completed soon and Pep Guardiola is looking forward to him arriving. "He is a player that we have followed for some time and that we have had some great reports for," the coach said. "We had the chance to sign him for a good price and I think that he will not prevent any homegrown players from progressing as he brings us things that our players are still too young for. Afellay is a player who has room for great improvement and can play in four or five different positions."