Guardiola backing Barca to rule Champions League

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MUNICH, Germany: Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola is now backing his ex-club Barcelona to win the Champions League after his Bavarian giants bowed out 5-3 on aggregate in the semifinals.

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Guardiola’s Bayern exited at the last-four stage for the second year running, despite ending Barcelona’s 18-game unbeaten run with a 3-2 semifinal, second-leg win in Munich.

Bayern were given an early glimmer of hope in their bid to overturn a three-goal deficit in Munich when the unmarked Medhi Benatia headed home on seven minutes at the Allianz Arena.

But Barca effectively booked their place in the Berlin final on June 6 when Luis Suarez twice set up Neymar to score for the visitors before half an hour had been played.

Bayern produced a rousing second-half performance with goals by Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller, but Barcelona advance to face either bitter rivals Real Madrid or Juventus in the finals.

Having won 16 titles as a player, then a further 14 in four years as head coach at the Camp Nou, Guardiola is backing Barcelona to claim their first European crown since 2011 at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on June 6.

“I want to congratulate my players, I am really happy to be their manager on a day like today,” said Guardiola, as Bayern denied Barcelona a first win in Munich at the fifth attempt.

“But I hope Barcelona can now win their fifth Champions League title in Berlin.”

“You can only beat Barcelona when you take the ball away from them, with it they are so strong.”

The win over Barcelona ended Bayern’s four-match losing streak since winning the German league title for the 25th time a fortnight ago.

“We won four titles last season, this year we have just one, but it has been a tough season with lots of injuries and despite that, my players still attacked at every opportunity,” enthused Guardiola.

Bayern’s come-back win demonstrated how much they wanted to reach an 11th European Cup final, but it was too little, too late, after their emphatic first-leg defeat.

“We believed in the miracle, but we couldn’t make it happen,” said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm.

Goal-scorer Mueller was a constant threat to the Barcelona defense and made good on his pre-match promise that Bayern would fight until the final whistle.

“We played a really great game in the first half but we’ve made two mistakes in defense and have been too wasteful with our chances,” said Mueller.

“That’s very annoying.”

AFP

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