One of the few injury concerns for Barcelona heading into the second match of its Champions League round-of-16 series with Arsenal is Coach Pep Guardiola, who has been diagnosed with a slipped disc. He is expected to be on the bench Tuesday at Camp Nou, and in the midst of yet another mesmerizing run of play the orchestrator of Barca's flair and success is the favored subject of articles in which he invariably downplays his influence.
"If it wasn't for [Lionel] Messi, I'd be coaching in the third division," he supposedly told a fan in Zaragoza. The breathtaking fluidity of Barca's cohesive interplay produces more than wins and goals, it generates incredible statistics, such as that of Dani Alves having the fourth-highest number of touches in the opponent's half among all players in La Liga. He is an outside back.
"We play in the other team's half as much as possible because I get worried when the ball is in my half," Guardiola says. "We're a horrible team without the ball so I want us to get it back as soon as possible and I'd rather give away fouls and the ball in their half than ours."
Says former Almeria coach Juan Manuel Lillo, who was fired a day after Barca drilled Almeria, 8-0, last November, "Barcelona is the only team that defends with the ball; the only team that rests in possession. They keep the ball so well, they move so collectively, that when you do get it back, you're tired, out of position and they're right on top of you."