Will it be a happy return for Pep?

DECORATED COACH: Guardiola returns to Camp Nou, where political divides remain in the presidential box.


    Oct 19, 2016

    Will it be a happy return for Pep?


    FOR one of the most decorated coaches of all-time, boasting a 75 per cent career win percentage and 21 trophies, Pep Guardiola's record of two wins from his last 11 away Champions League matches is an uncharacteristic stain.

    Manchester City's long court of the Catalan was not just to dominate at home but also secure City's place among the European elite by winning the Champions League.

    Despite reaching the last four for the first time in their history last season, Guardiola insists they are far from the finished article.

    "If you ask me if we are ready to compete in Europe, then we are not ready," he said last month despite a stunning 10-game winning run to start his tenure.

    Yet, as he returns to the club who made him as a player and a coach in Barcelona today, Guardiola and City will get a far better look into how far they have to go to be Champions League contenders.

    "The last decade, the last 15 years, they dominate football the way they play," Guardiola said after Saturday's 1-1 draw with Everton.

    "Barcelona is special (in) the way they play because it is a machine."

    Under Luis Enrique, Barcelona have moved on too. A Lionel Messi-inspired 3-0 win over Guardiola's Bayern in 2015 allowed Enrique to equal his friend's remarkable achievement of delivering the treble in his first season in charge.

    Guardiola will be warmly welcomed by the vast majority in the stands and his old charges on the pitch, if not in the presidential box where old political divides remain.

    That has much to do with the reason why Guardiola has been back to the Camp Nou only one other time than Bayern's visit in the past four years.

    Sitting next to his father as a fan rather than an invited guest, Guardiola howled in astonishment at a virtuoso Messi display as Barca beat City 1-0 in March 2015.

    Only a series of outstanding saves from Joe Hart prevented more severe punishment for City that night.