Champions League: Barcelona coach demands respect for opponents

While he admitted he did not know a great deal about either club, Guardiola stressed the need to take the tie seriously.

guardiola 88 (photo credit: )
guardiola 88
(photo credit: )
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has demanded that his players do not underestimate their opponents in the Champions League qualifier they will play against Wisla Krakow or Betar Jerusalem later this month. While he admitted he did not know a great deal about either club, Guardiola stressed the need to take the tie seriously, especially with the first leg being the first official game of Barcelona's season. "If this was November we could approach this game in a more relaxed way, but this is just the start and that makes it so much harder", he said. "Wherever we go it will one of the season's most important matches." Barcelona is currently on tour in the US as part of its preseason preparations. Asked about Wisla Krakow and Betar Jerusalem Guardiola answered honestly. "I don't know them, I haven't seen them yet, but whichever side it is we'll have to show them the utmost respect and be prudent. We haven't done much work, while they have already played one round". Barca midfielder Rafa Márquez called the Champions League qualifier "the most important game of the season." "It is important that we do well in the opening game," he said. "We have to consider that the tie will hinge on the first game. We must take advantage of that and not have to worry in the second match." The first leg is scheduled to be played in Spain with the return either in Jerusalem or Krakow. However Barcelona has announced that it is hoping to reverse the ties. "Although Barcelona have been drawn to play the first game, on August 13, at Camp Nou, the club is in contact with both possible opponents to talk about playing the game in reverse order," a statement on the club's official Web site read. The inclusion of Barcelona's star playmaker Lionel Messi became an increasingly contentious issue over the weekend. Last week FIFA ruled that Messi must be allowed to play for Argentina in the Olympics as he is under the age of 23. However on Saturday Barcelona announced that it will be taking the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, even though Messi has already arrived in Beijing. "We will try because we think we are right," the club's soccer director Txiki Begiristain told The Associated Press. "FIFA told us we were to let him [Messi] go and we did. If CAS tells us again that he has to be with the club we will try to get back the player." The club will argue in court that the Olympic tournament is not included on football's international match calendar and clashes with the start of their season. FIFA says the calendar only reflects the schedule for the full national teams - those which include players older than 23 - and that the Beijing dates were set by the International Olympic Committee. The 16-nation tournament kicks off on Thursday. AP contributed to this report