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Guardiola returns to Barcelona with Bayern Munich




Pep Guardiola is headed home to visit Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates in the Champions League semifinals.

The current Bayern Munich coach, who led Barcelona to 14 titles before heading to Germany and helped win more as a player, will face his old team in the first leg today at Camp Nou.

Guardiola has already won the Bundesliga title this season and will next meet his childhood club and former teammate, Luis Enrique.

Messi and Luis Enrique, who calls Guardiola his “friend,” both said yesterday that the chance of reaching a European final was a greater motivation than facing the man already considered a club great.

“With Guardiola, besides the titles, which are the most important thing, I grew and learned a lot as a player,” Messi said. “He knows us, and we know what he wants and asks of his team. It’s 50-50, we all know each other very well.”

No other coach besides former Real Madrid nemesis, Jose Mourinho, has left his mark on European soccer like Guardiola, who perfected Barcelona’s passing style and implanted it at Bayern.

The possession-based approach has often worked, but when it hasn’t led to titles it has earned Guardiola the criticism of being more interested with having the ball than putting it in the net.

The arrival of Luis Enrique to coach Barcelona, and, equally important, that of Luis Suarez to provide a traditional striker up front, has let Barcelona finally vary its tactics, which had atrophied since Guardiola left. Barcelona can now win through set pieces and long balls for Suarez, something rarely seen over the past decade at Camp Nou.

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