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Guardiola not afraid of fear

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said he is not afraid of nerves affecting his team ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League final against Manchester United at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Guardiola is in his first season as a coach, one in which he admitted to have exceeded all expectations having already claimed a domestic double and reached the final of Europe’s premier club competition.

And he acknowledges that United’s boss Sir Alex Ferguson, a manager of 35 years experience with 14 league titles and who is leading his team in a fourth European final, has the advantage when it comes to experience.

But Guardiola says it is no bad thing to be touched by a bit of fear before a big game.

”Definitely he [Ferguson] has more experience than me, no doubt, but I don’t know if this will influence the game,” he said on Tuesday.

”I have seen many Manchester United games; I know how we are going to play against them.

”The other day I read an interview with Sir Alex in which he said that fear makes you compete better and I agree.

”Sometimes nerves or being scared makes you play or perform better but the team is very calm and they have complete trust in what we need to do.”

However, Guardiola admitted that United have one ability that maybe his team lack, that of battling through a determined rearguard action.

”Manchester are a great team. If they have to play defensively for half an hour with us on top, they can.

”We’re not used to that. We’re more comfortable with an open defence and not having another team closing in on us and in that respect Manchester may be better.”

However he is not expecting United to try to shut up shop and just hit them on the counter-attack, as Chelsea did in the semifinal and as United themselves played in the away leg of their last four clash against the Catalans a year ago.

”Of course they’re very good defensively. If they’re defensive that’s ok because it means their opponents are creating many chances,” he said.

”I don’t expect Manchester to play defensively or to rely on the counter attack. If we’re not in good shape they’ll attack us or at least create many chances.

”We’ve had the ball for 60 matches this season and we’ll try to keep it as we have done in the past.”

One thing is for sure, though, Barcelona will go out and have a go.

”In finals there is always an element of all or nothing. You might be afraid to play but this is something you have to leave in the dressing room and just go out and play.

”Tomorrow we have to show what we have done throughout the season. We’re a tremendous team and we have to apply ourselves 100%

”I don’t want us to come off the pitch tomorrow thinking we could have done things differently. We’re going to play football and try to control the game.”

And Guardiola is certainly not planning on making any excuses for his team, who will be missing suspended fullbacks Eric Abidal and Dani Alves as well as injured centre back Rafael Marquez.

He also has concerns over the fitness of France forward Thierry Henry and Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta.

”I know I have important players missing but that can’t be an excuse. Tomorrow we’ll put out a very good team and we’ll try to be Barcelona,” said Guardiola.

”It’s an honour to play for Barcelona and that’s what we’ll try to do. If we can’t be at 100% defensively we’ll play more attacking and try to score more goals.” — Sapa-AFP

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