Guardiola changed Barca forever says Pique
Pep Guardiola’s legacy at Barcelona will never be forgotten according to Barca defender Gerard Pique ahead of Guardiola’s return to the Camp Nou as Manchester City manager on Wednesday.
Pique was a major part of the Guardiola side that won 14 trophies in a golden four-year period between 2008 and 2012.
“Pep made a mark on all of us that were with him, there was a before and after. We understood football in a different way and he changed the history of the club,” said Pique on Tuesday.
“I only have complimentary words for him. He gave me the opportunity to come here and gave me everything.”
City travel to the Camp Nou without a win in three games as draws at Celtic and home to Everton sandwiched Guardiola’s first defeat in England at Tottenham Hotspur.
However, Pique believes City are already a more dangerous prospect than in the four meetings between the sides in the last 16 of the Champions League in 2013/14 and 2014/15 when Barca emerged victorious on all four occasions.
“I think Manchester City is a different team from last year or the years they came here with (Manuel) Pellegrini,” added the former Manchester United man.
“The style of play is different. They pressure a lot really high, they try to have the ball and create chances and I think they play like us because Pep Guardiola was here many years.
“He understands football the same way we do. It will be a really challenging game.”
Barca hold a two-point lead over City at the top of Champions League Group C.
Pique believes victory will prove a “gigantic step” not only towards qualification for the knockout stages, but also topping the group ahead of his former boss.
And the five-time European champions’ chances will be massively boosted by the return of Leo Messi from a groin injury.
Messi took just three minutes to score on his return from a groin injury as a substitute in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Deportivo la Coruna.
However, he is expected to start alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez up front for just the fourth time this season.
“It doesn’t matter if he is 100 percent or 10 percent, he is so different and so good just his presence on the pitch makes a difference for us and the other team,” added Pique.
“Leo looks fine, you saw it only took him three minutes to get going.
“He is the best player in history. I’ve known him since he was 13. We don’t put all the pressure on him, though, Leo with Argentina doesn’t always win. The team has to perform because it is impossible to win with just one player.”
Barca boss Luis Enrique and Guardiola played together with the Catalan giants.
As a coach Enrique has continuously followed in Guardiola’s footsteps. Both enjoyed their first managerial role with Barca B, whilst Enrique matched Guardiola’s feat of delivering the treble in his first season in charge of the senior team.
And Enrique lauded his former colleague and friend as the “best coach in the world”.
“I can’t envisage a better game for a football fan to watch,” said Enrique.
“Pep is a friend and it is very easy to evaluate his work positively. I think he is the best coach in the world right now without a doubt.
“You can see in City since pre-season the hand of Pep. For us it is an enormous stimulus to not only play for first place in the group, but also against Guardiola’s City.”
Enrique should have the luxury of naming his strongest side as full-backs Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto also took part in training on Tuesday and are set to return after missing the Deportivo game through injury.