Luis Enrique: Guardiola's style and success make him the best

The Barcelona boss is relishing the Champions League clash with Bayern but says Saturday’s derby with Espanyol is currently the only game that matters

Pep Guardiola’s trophy wins – and the style with which he achieved them – make him the best coach in the world, according to Luis Enrique.

Guardiola is set to return to Camp Nou for the first time since stepping down as Barcelona boss in 2012 after his Bayern Munich side were drawn against the Liga leaders in the Champions League semi-finals.

Luis Enrique feels it will be a special occassion to face his old team-mate but is determined to win both legs and secure a place in the final.

“Guardiola is the best because he has won so many titles, because of the way he did it, and because he’s adapted to another country with a very difficult language and he’s implanted his ideas,” he told a press conference.

“We have played 10 matches in the Champions League and won nine. We will be out to win both at home and away. Our approach is clear.”

Luis Enrique insists, however, that the only game which matters is Saturday’s Catalan derby against Espanyol, with Barca aiming to maintain their lead at the top of the table.

“There is only one game and it’s the one this Saturday. It’s a derby, with everything that it means for the fans. It’s a key day for us,” said the former Celta Vigo boss.

“Espanyol are defending well. They defend as a unit and we will have to have a good day to get past them. I worry about their transition and Sergio Garcia, who we know well and is their most talented player. It’s a great match-up.

“We will be very intense because this match requires it.”

Title rivals Real Madrid face a trip to Celta on Sunday having now closed the gap to Barca to two points, but Luis Enrique says he expects more points to be dropped before the season is out.

The Camp Nou coach added: “This is the final stretch and the team’s mood is key. I see them in a very positive dynamic.

“I think the top teams will drop some points and hopefully it won’t be us. On ability alone we can win, but it is going to be very difficult.”

Barcelona are better than Bayern, says Guardiola

The ex-Blaugrana coach is eagerly anticipating the Champions League semi-final, though he thinks the Bavarians have a tough nut to crack

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has branded Barcelona the “strongest” after the two teams were paired together in Friday’s Champions League semi-final draw.

The 44-year-old guided Barcelona to numerous trophies between 2008 and 2012 before taking a one-year sabbatical.

The upcoming Champions League tie will be Guardiola’s first return to Camp Nou with another club and he has nothing but respect for his former team.

“Obviously, Barcelona were one of the options. I have enjoyed a lot of success at Barca, but I am very happy to be here at Bayern. It’s fine for me. Barcelona are of course the best out there,” the Spaniard said at a press conference.

“I am grateful to get this chance to return to Barcelona with Bayern. It is something very special.

“I cannot say anything bad about Barcelona. I have nothing but respect for Barca. I will never forget these two games.

“We will need the entire team to beat Barcelona. Believe me, they are the strongest.

“I am very happy for Luis Enrique. He is a great coach and a fine human being.

“Barcelona’s mentality and philosophy has not changed. They are still very much the same team.”

Bayern and Barca last met in the Champions League in 2012-13, when the German champions recorded a 7-0 win on aggregate.

Luis Enrique excited by Pep's 'special' return to Barcelona

The former Camp Nou team-mates will face off in May with a place in the Champions League final at stake

Luis Enrique acknowledged Pep Guardiola’s return to Barcelona will be a special occasion but batted away talk of his side being unlucky in Friday’s Champions League draw.

Barca were paired with Bayern Munich in next month’s semi-finals, meaning Guardiola will make an emotional first return to Camp Nou in charge of the German side.

“It’s special as it’s the first time Pep will face Barca. He will face his former players too,” Luis Enrique told reporters.

Many of the current Barca squad were mainstays of the team which Guardiola led to two Champions League titles, three La Ligas and two Club World Cups in a glittering four-year spell which ended in 2012.

Although Guardiola could guide Bayern to the Bundesliga title this weekend – his second in as many seasons – there remain critics of his work at the Allianz Arena.

The last-four clash will, therefore, be an interesting gauge of the progress he has made since moving to Germany.

“Bayern aspire to the same as us and have the best coach,” added Luis Enrique, who denied his side had been unfortunate in drawing Bayern.

“I always think after the draw of the bad luck for whoever has been drawn to play against Barcelona.

“I don’t care about playing the first leg at home or away. We will go out to win both games.

“Now I am just interested in the three La Liga games before the semi-finals.”

The first of those comes on Saturday when table-toppers Barca take on city rivals Espanyol.

Beckenbauer: Bayern are underdogs against Barcelona

The Germany icon feels the Bundesliga champions will go into the game as underdogs, whereas Matthias Sammer expects an even tie

Bayern Munich honorary president Franz Beckenbauer believes his side are the underdogs in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.

The Bundesliga champions impressed on Tuesday with a 6-1 win over Porto in the second leg of their quarter-final tie, ensuring a 7-4 aggregate triumph.

Yet the Bayern legend is even more impressed by the Catalans, who saw off Paris Saint-Germain with ease in the quarter-finals.

“Barcelona are the favourites for me,” Beckenbauer told reporters. “It’s not that Bayern do not stand a chance, but they are not the favourites.”

Sporting director Matthias Sammer, on the other hand, thinks it will prove to be an even tie where both sides have as much chance as each other to make it to the final in Berlin.

“I am really looking forward to it. I think it’s a 50-50 tie,” he said. “Both sides have an attack that’s among the best in the world. Barcelona have some superb players, but so do Bayern.

“It’s all about focusing on our own strengths. Guardiola’s return to Camp Nou? Coaches are always the centre of attention, but they are not the ones taking to the pitch.

“There is nothing better in football than big games like this.”

Lahm: Barcelona the team to beat

The former German has singled out the Catalans – whom they have drawn in the semi-finals – as the standout team in the Champions League

Philipp Lahm believes Bayern Munich have drawn “the team to beat” in the Champions League by being pitted against Barcelona in the semi-finals.

The Bundesliga champions beat Porto 7-4 on aggregate in the quarter-finals of the competition to make it to the final four and Lahm is desperate to make it to the final in Berlin and emerge victorious – even though it means knocking out Pep Guardiola’s former club.

“At the moment, it looks like Barcelona are the team to beat,” the Bayern skipper was quoted as saying by TZ.

“They have some great players and have impressed so far. They concede very few goals and score plenty of goals…

“But when you make it to the semi-finals, you want to reach the final as well.

“Our experience from previous semi-finals has taught us that it will not be easy.

“We have a history against Barcelona. We keep meeting each other time and time again in the Champions League.”

The winner of Bayern and Barca’s semi-final will face either Real Madrid or Juventus in the final in Berlin on June 6.