Pep Guardiola will make an emotional return to Barcelona next month, after Bayern Munich were drawn with his former club in the UEFA Champions League.
Having overcome a 3-1 first leg deficit to ease past FC Porto 6-1 in the return earlier this week, there was ever chance Bayern would be pitched against Barca who made light work of Paris St Germain on the same night. And so it proved, with the German giants and Guardiola heading to the Camp Nou on 6 May for the semi–final first leg before the return at the Allianz Arena a week later.
“Everyone understands how special this game is for me, for Thiago [Bayern’s former Barca star] and my staff,” Guardiola said. “Barcelona was our life. When you are in a semi-final, you will always face a big team. Barcelona is my home. I knew this would happen sooner or later. I am very happy that I can experience this. It’s a nice game but not easy. Believe me, Barcelona are the strongest.”
Guardiola made over 350 appearances for Barca having developed through their youth system, and went on to become their head coach in 2008 when he would lead them to an astonishing 14 trophies in just four years. After taking a sabbatical in 2012-13, he succeeded Jupp Heynckes at Bayern last summer, and won the Bundesliga and cup double during his debut campaign last term.
Both Bayern and Barca are in contention for a clean sweep of honours this time round, with Guardiola’s side on the verge of another league title and in the semi-finals of their domestic cup competition. It is a slightly more complicated route for Louis Enrique’s team as they top La Liga by just two points, but they have already booked a Copa del Rey final place against Athletic Bilbao.
In the other semi-final, current holders Real Madrid will travel to Italian champions Juventus on 5 May before the return in Turin the following week. The Bianconeri last won the Champions League in 2003 when they beat Milan, but for Los Blancos, they are chasing an 11th crown and also the honour of being the first side to win it in successive seasons in its current format.
Like Guardiola, this other tie will also see a head coach return to a former club. Carlo Ancelotti, now of Real, was appointed Juve boss in 1999 and led them to Intertoto Cup glory that season, but was sacked two years later. He said of the draw: “Juventus are having a very good season and have practically won the Italian league. That means they can focus more on the Champions League.”
Will Guardiola inflict defeat on his beloved Barcelona over two legs, or are the Spaniards destined for glory? And will we see an El Clasico final, or can Juventus pull off a surprise?